Part One. Lexicon
- meretricious, garish, gauche
- philistine, the quintessential narcissist who, lacking taste and class, defines himself and is deluded in believing to exalt himself when he shows off his garish things.
- Impoverishment through substitution
- The power of possessions: They give us a sense of security, power, control, dominance over others (competing 122), status, “bragging rights” (something is rare).
- We embody the objects we’re proud of in part because they establish our superior taste and our demand for excellence: My Thai granite mortar and pestle, my Kitchenaid burr coffee grinder, my Bodum stainless steel French Press. I make pumpkin seed pesto and superior coffee and thus assert my superior tastes. My Apple computer and iPod show that I’m on the forefront of smart technology and of course affirm how well educated I am. My Nissan Maxima is a “sleeper,” not a big show-off car but shows that I am secure with an inconspicuous high-performance, low-maintenance automobile. My Maxima shows that I do not need the praise of others, that I am a man secure with myself, a man who buys his car based on performance specs, not show-off labels and once again this shows the world how superior I am.
- The opposite of garish clutter: feng shui: Spare and streamline. When you go into my house, the first thing you notice how neat everything is, how there is no clutter, how everything is spare. The walls are not littered with family framed photos or velvet paintings. My house tells my guests how educated I am, how superior my tastes are.
Part Two. Essay Option.
In a page, summarize the way Joan Kron explains the connection between possessions and identity. Then write a thesis about you or someone you know very well about the connection between identity and possessions. Your research sources will be “The Semiotics of Home Décor,” my blog, and any interviews you might do.
Here’s thesis example from McMahon analyzing his identity and his personal connections.
My technological contraptions, choice of automobile, music selection on iTunes, kitchen appliances, and home décor show that I am a man very particular about taste, image, and identity. Specifically, my consumer choices highlight my need to project an identity to others and myself that is rooted in my hunger to be on the forefront of the latest technological innovations, to pursue authentic home-made gourmandize-inspired cooking, feng shui interior design, and the constant pursuit of excellence in all things. In the end, my consumer choices reveal a paradoxical trait: a man who is on one hand eager to be admired and on the other hand a man who supremely dismisses the opinions of others.
In Class Activity
Write a list of your most significant possessions and develop a thesis about what these possessions say about you.
In a 200-word paragraph, answer the following question with a precise topic sentence followed by supporting details. The question is this: "What is the power of possessions?"