Subgenre: pop culture, history, critical theory
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library
The parts I found interesting were the various historical examples such as the Crystal Palace, aquariums, Chinese rooms, salons, and other decorations. Those stories, many from Victorian times, were interesting, especially since some of those images and objects survive today. Unfortunately those interesting parts get lost in critical theory and her thesis.
In the end, the book was barely OK for me. It does feature some nice illustrations and photography, but not even that is enough to save this pretty forgettable book.
2 out of 5 stars.
Additional reading notes:
The increase of image making in the 19th century. Also, image making became more accessible outside of the Church and the wealthy:
"The nineteenth century witnessed a multiplication in image-making techniques that transformed Western culture's optical unconscious. Mechanical reproduction not only altered the proliferation and affordability of images, but also enabled a particular, modern sensibility based on the preeminence of looking and collecting. Although this sensibility may be traced back several centuries, what emerges at this moment is the unprecedent democratization of the practices of looking and collecting" (13).
On a side note, the footnotes in the book are often more interesting than the main text. The footnotes often go deep into specific small details and provide sources, in case you want to learn more.
A definition of kitsch:
"Kitsch is the attempt to repossess the experience of intensity and immediacy through an object. Since this recovery can only be partial and transitory, as the fleetingness of memories well testifies, kitsch objects may be considered failed commodities" (291).
And here I thought kitsch was about collecting, making memories, perhaps keeping a bit of happier times. And given things like souvenirs and collectibles of various forms can sell very well, I would not rush to call them a failure. Certainly not to those who enjoy and collect kitschy things. It basically takes a high fallutin' academic to rain on our common people parade. So if kitsch is your thing, enjoy it in peace and skip much if not all of this book.