Issue 2/2019, 115. Volume Page 216–237
It Looks and Blinks
The Mail-Order Catalog “The Modern Housewife” as a Promise of Problem Solving and Joie de Vivre
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The article deals with a specific material-cultural segment of household and home furnishings as part of everyday experience and interpretation practice. It develops the thesis that these objects and their text-image marketing serve for an externalization and hiding of basic human problem potentials which are of social, practical, emotional and spiritual-religious nature. The focus is not on problems but on solutions. This strategy is analyzed as functional with respect to the regulation of vital issues and thus interpreted as part of a popular emancipatory everyday strategy: Always look at the bright side of life! Due to the aforementioned breadth of needs, cultural studies approaches which are influenced by folklore and religious studies co-operate and identify the popular everyday aesthetics style with the example of the mail-order catalog „The Modern Housewife“ which is existing since 1967. In this low-price range of goods you will find everyday household helpers such as decorative items around the kitchen, the home, the garden and the cemetery. The products are promoted in a mix of information, visualization and entertaining narrative framing which is typical of this market segment and which we conceptualize as enchantment and problem solving promise. The essay, as a contribution to the research of material culture, includes references to living space, wall decoration and popular culture research as well as to religious economics and aesthetics.
everyday aesthetics, home decor, popular religion, material culture, mass taste, mail-order catalog