2018-19 Courses


Introduction to Material Culture
Professor Joanna Papayiannis
T 3-6

This course is about things - the everyday objects of past and present cultures. It examines the meanings people have invested in objects and how those meanings have changed over time. Using interdisciplinary approaches, students investigate objects found in homes, retail spaces, cities, art galleries and museums in order to develop new understandings of the objects that structure their daily lives and their material world.

Prerequisite: Completion of 4.0 FCEs
Exclusion: VIC111H1/VIC111Y1, VIC224H1
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities or Social Science course
Breadth Requirement: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)


A History of the World in Objects
Professor Michael Chazan; Professor Ivan Kalmar; Professor Ken Bartlett
Lecture: M 12-2
Tutorials: M 2-3; M 3-4; M 4-5; M 5-6 

Through a multidisciplinary approach, this course opens new perspectives on the history of artifacts, the evolution of a world of things, and the analysis of material culture. Lectures and tutorials are supplemented by hands-on exercises in museums and local communities.

Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1) + Society and its Institutions (3)


The Material Culture of Food
Professor Irina Mihalache
T 11-2

Why were North Americans in the sixties obsessed with cream of mushroom soups and casseroles? How did Jell-O become such a popular ingredients in the 1940s? And what exactly is a “Chinese Chew”? Cooking and eating leave behind numerous material traces. Besides the food itself, its packaging and tools of consumption, we have many other objects which can help us understand what people ate, why and how: culinary texts, such as restaurant menus, cookbooks, food advertisements, magazines, and other ephemera. 

This courses uses historic objects (1850 – 1960) from the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library collection to engage critically with the histories of their makers, consumers and audiences, while problematizing the formation of culinary culture in Canada and globally. 

Students enrolled in the course will engage directly with historic artefacts, will learn how to interpret and “translate” historic recipes for contemporary eaters; analyze recipes in relation to issues related to gender, cultural difference, globalization and imperialism, amongst others; and re-construct tastes of the past through cookbooks analysis. Likewise, students develop research skills pertaining to food and material studies, and engage in various multisensorial exercises.  Chatelaine magazine will be one of the focus objects, and students develop familiarity to food media, connecting past examples with current practices in the field.  

Prerequisite: Completion of 6.0 FCE
Exclusion: VIC229H1 taken in 2015-2016
Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2) 

Digital Material Culture
Professor Alan Galey
W 1-4

This course explores the materiality of digital objects, from image and music files to digital documents to video games and other software, and considers their status as material culture. It involves the primary study of digital objects and also considers the technological infrastructures, cultural contexts, and signifying systems in which they are produced, circulated, and interpreted.

Prerequisite: Completion of 6.0 FCE
Distribution Requirements: Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

Materializing Cultural Identities
Professor Cathie Sutton
R 10-12

Students examine the expression of cultural identities in objects. Students are taught to think critically about the construction, use, display, and exchange of objects with significance for cultural identity. In addition to lectures and discussions, students participate in guided visits to sites - everyday, ritual, institutional - where negotiation of identity through objects occurs.

Prerequisite: Completion of 6.0 FCE
Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

VIC329H1 S/Y  
Material Culture Internship
Professor Cathie Sutton

A practical or experiential learning opportunity under the supervision of a faculty member, normally at a museum, art gallery or other cultural agency (as approved by the supervisor). Not eligible for CR/NCR.

Prerequisite: Completion of 9 FCE; Enrolled in the Material Culture minor
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities or Social Science course


Themes in Material Culture
Professor Joanna Papayiannis
T 10-1

This fourth year seminar, required for students pursuing a minor in material culture, will have opportunities to explore themes in material culture studies, museum exhibitions and collections as well as processes of object analysis in greater depth and at an advanced level. Specific topics and research projects will vary according to the interests and specialties of course instructors and students.

Prerequisite: VIC224Y1/VIC225Y1 and completion of 9 FCE; or permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities or Social Science course
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

Current Students