St. Olaf College | News

Titus to deliver spring Mellby Lecture on material culture studies

TitusMary450x375At this year’s spring Mellby Lecture, Professor of English and Chair of the English Department Mary Titus will discuss her studies of material culture, the field of material culture itself, and the importance of interdisciplinary thinking.

Her March 24 lecture, titled Thinking Through Things, will be streamed and archived online.

Material culture studies is an interdisciplinary field that looks at the relationships between people and their objects using archaeology, anthropology, history, social sciences, and many more disciplines. Titus will discuss the importance of this field.

Titus was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities scholarship to participate in an institute at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City titled American Material Culture: Nineteenth-Century New York. Participants in the month-long program researched and discussed material culture, focusing on New York due to its role as a “national center for fashioning cultural commodities and promoting consumer tastes.”

The institute prompted Titus to share her interest with St. Olaf through teaching an American literature course on money and social class, a seminar on material culture, and a course that brought New York City to students on campus during Interim through a digital project map of the city.

Titus frequently teaches in and has occasionally directed programs in American studies, race and ethnic studies, women’s and gender studies, the Center for Integrative Studies, and the American Conversations Program.

“I believe that the future of higher education lies in interdisciplinary education and am very interested in efforts to revise academic structures so that they may more effectively support complex, multi-dimensional approaches to subject matter,” says Titus.

Titus earned her bachelor of arts degree from Skidmore College in 1978 and her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1986. She joined the English faculty at St. Olaf in 1989. Titus recently returned from co-leading the 2014-15 Global Semester program.

The Mellby Lectures
The annual Mellby Lectures are named in remembrance of St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby and were established in 1983 to give professors the opportunity to share their research with the public. Mellby, known as “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history at the college. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and is credited with creating the college’s honor system.