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On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection
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On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  471 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Miniature books, eighteenth-century novels, Tom Thumb weddings, tall tales, and objects of tourism and nostalgia: this diverse group of cultural forms is the subject of On Longing, a fascinating analysis of the ways in which everyday objects are narrated to animate or realize certain versions of the world. Originally published in 1984 (Johns Hopkins University Press), and ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published December 19th 1992 by Duke University Press Books (first published May 1st 1984)
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Feb 20, 2010 marked it as to-read
have look at small sections of this book for multiple papers and every time i am more frustrated that i dont have the time to just sit down and read it all through. pretty much a tying together of everything i am interested in.
dear susan stewart,
let's hang out
love, kate
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
stewart thinks nostalgia is a dirty, dirty std. It is also the desire for an impossible return to some kind of ‘authentic’ moment in the past, one that cripples you from experiencing the immediacy of the present.
the sign is in crisis! and in todays postmodern exchange economy, your overly mediated and abstracted life can no longer experience the present unless it is grounded in the objects of some idealized/allusive past – that means your personal or ‘unique’ experiences do not give meaning to t
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
While this book is a quintessential example of "high theory" in that it tends toward abstraction and makes grand gestures toward relating everything in the world to everything else, the dichotomies is creates (between miniature and gigantic and souvenir and collection most notably) are incredibly useful. Further, while Stewart is intent on using these dichotomies to explicate on the grand schemes of the world, they can be easily applied to the smaller world of the book collectors I'm studying. I ...more
A one-of-a-kind book. Stewart's is the kind of scholarship that bursts out of its ivory box; it's much too robust and original and genuinely, genuinely brilliant to concern itself with the empty rhetoric and discursive obscurity of much "theory"-based criticism. You could read her work for the prose alone and be enthralled. See also "Crimes of Writing," which is magnificent. Susan Stewart is that rare commodity in her discipline: a real writer.
John Carter McKnight
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic
Brilliant, despite a brutally dense first chapter. A clever, syncretic, wide-ranging study of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir and the collection, and their roles in psychology and culture. Anyone studying the co-construction of the self can benefit from this, especially those focused on cultures whose identity derives in part from divergence from a social norm. A real tour de force of creative synthesis, and, after that first chapter, an excellent read.
Claudia Deloach
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
A dense read centered on metaphors and the relation of narratives to its objects. A fascinating analysis of the ways in which everyday objects are narrated to animate certain versions of the wrold. Stewart addresses the relations of the body to scale, and narratives to objects. She examines the ways the sourvenir and the collection are objects of experiece in space and time.
Dec 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Extremely thought provoking - a good read :)
Apr 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Though this was not at all helpful for my thesis, Stewart's prose is so pretty. Pretty pretty pretty. Pretty. (I skimmed it so I don't have any else evaluative to say about it.)
Nov 04, 2013 marked it as to-read
"These conventions of description are intimately bound up with the conception of time as it is both portrayed in the work and partaken of by the work. By means of its conventions of depiction, temporality, and, ultimately, closure, narrative here seeks to 'realize' a certain formulation of the world. Hence we can see the many narratives that dream of the inanimate–made–animate as symptomatic of all narrative's desire to invent a realizable world, a world which 'works.' In this sense, every narra ...more
J Murnaghan
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
As far as academic cultural theory goes, this one has hung with me more than others. I'd say because of the thoroughness of her explanations & the multitude of examples. One of only a couple of books that we own two copies of...
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who love to think and feel at the same time
objects have a life of their own, both in the world and in our imaginations, and this book accounts for how we arrange ourselves and our objects into collections, how we fantasize about who we are in the world in relation to objects that are giant or miniature, and for how we try to reimagine ourselves by rearranging the objects around us.

this book also contains one of the most piercing thoughts on writing and death i've ever read:

". . . while speech gains authenticity, writing promises immorta
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book, but I felt it didn't reach sympathetically at its object nor shed much light on these obsessions. Does liking miniatures make you a smaller person as I fear Stewart suggests? Or does it invite imagination around objects that would be overly decadent if achieved in their life-sized form? Miniatures permit a sort of "having" without owning that in many cases must be viewed as less materialistic than owning the objects in life-size. Distortion of scale is an aestheti ...more
Lindsay Joy
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thesis-research
This book is lovely, but quite challenging. I had to take a few breaks from reading it, and so it took longer than expected. It includes some great ideas around nostalgia, longing and the souvenir, and most relevant to me, the miniature. The only thing that bothered me were the untranslated quotations from people like Baudrillard and Foucault. My French isn't good enough for that kind of stuff.
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm rereading this one. Well, certain chapters, as it's a dense one. I don't know about you, but I find comfort in critical theory-based stuff when I am about to embark on making things -- in this case, miniauture sourvenirs. It's a classic, really. If you want to understand the psychological aspects of nostalgia, memory-keeping, and collecting, then this one is for you!"
Nov 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really intriguing look at the cultural implications of the miniature, the gigantic, the collection, and the souvenir. A bit dense at times, but the section on dollhouses alone makes the book worthwhile.
Kathryn Stine
Nov 15, 2007 is currently reading it
I'm convinced I will be reading this book for-eh-ver. It is so promising but so dense!
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I keep coming back to this, as its basic ideas of site, memory, the scale of things, and the construction of narrative are of continuing and developing interest and relevance.
Laura Auricchio
Mar 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: collecting
Thought provoking essays on collecting.
Aug 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
lovely and insightful. i like any book that devotes a section to the parenthesis.
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, p-r
Needs to be re-read again and again.
May 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is the reason I am philosophically opposed to collecting.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I keep reading and rereading this, especially the chapter on miniatures. Favorite phrase= center within center, within within within.
Apr 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Currently reading this for thesis. It takes a LONG time to read, really dense and good.
Jul 02, 2013 added it
A favorite. I have had this book for a long time and still refer to it. I also use it to teach from in my 3D Foundations class (Memento project).
Mar 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: teacher-mandated
This sucker was the mainframe (?) of my master's thesis. I've read like one chapter, but it was a really handy chapter!
Curt Bozif
Oct 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: writers, readers, and a few artists
That I don't know very much about literature.
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
so lovely
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing work. Stewart is subtle and poetic. Elegant read.
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Parts of this book are quite fascinating. Other parts are beyond me. I guess I really should have taken philosophy at some point in my life.
Jonathan Walz
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is AMAZING!
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Susan Stewart (born 1952) is an American poet, university professor and literary critic.

Professor Stewart holds degrees from Dickinson College (B.A. in English and Anthropology), the Johns Hopkins University (M.F.A. in Poetics) and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. in Folklore). She teaches the history of poetry, aesthetics, and the philosophy of literature, most recently at Princeton Universi
More about Susan Stewart...
“And it is in this gap between resemblance and identity that nostalgic desire arises. The nostalgic is enamored of distance, not of the referent itself. Nostalgia cannot be sustained without loss.” 0 likes
“This bourgeois conjunction of sign and signified is apparent in the dramatic rescue of the classics offered in advertisements for gilt-and-leather volumes of “The World’s Greatest Literature.” 0 likes
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