object lessons

The Occasion

Most of the objects in our lives go passed by without notice. However, each of these objects has something to teach us: it symbolizes something, was made in an interesting way, had an unexpected use, reflects a trend in history. In short, every object tells a story. Atlantics Object Lesson series, edited by academics interested in the philosophy of everyday objects, is one prominent example of trying to tell those stories.

The Task

You will mimic the research approach and style of the Atlantic object lessons, in an essay on an object of your choosing. You are asked to explore the object through both traditional scholarship and through other sources: news, pop culture, social media, etc. In short, you will be exploring the meaning of the object you choose, which youll demonstrate through your wide range of sources.

Youre also asked to organize your paper in two or more themed sections. As you research, try to find a few key angles to look at your object from. What does your object symbolize? How has it changed? What were the attitudes of those who created it, and do those attitudes live on in the object now? 

Required Elements

  • 1400 words
  • MLA formatted, with in-text citations and bibliography
  • 2-4 subtopics/angles on your object, organized into multi-paragraph sections with section break symbols
  • 2 scholarly sources
  • 4 other sources, unrestricted


First Version due Thursday, February 17 at start of class

Final Version due Friday, February 25, at 10:00 p.m.


150 points total:

  • 30 points: completed first draft
  • 30 points: required source elements
  • 30 points: clear interpretation and analysis of your materials
  • 30 points: organization of ideas
  • 30 points: mechanics and formatting