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Friday, June 22, 2012

Perry Nodelman and the Scripts of Salt and Pepper Sets

The distinguished children's literature scholar Perry Nodelman, author of The Hidden Adult: Defining Children's Literature and many other important books, has been blogging about his hobby: collecting novelty salt and pepper sets. These sets raise fascinating questions about the nature of pairs, about humor, and about representations of race, gender, and sexuality. As Prof. Nodelman points out, salt and pepper shakers also raise questions about the nature of things: in the language of Racial Innocence, they are scriptive things in that they prompt or invite a range of behaviors, including but also extending far beyond the actions of salting and peppering. Today, Professor Nodelman blogged about scriptive things, Racial Innocence, and salt and pepper sets. He wrote,

As I read Racial Innocence, I learned a great deal I hadn’t expect to learn about how concepts of race have found expression in American culture in a variety of ways, in a number of surprising contexts, and in a number of surprisingly subtle scripted actions invited by a range of interesting (and interestingly scripted) scriptive things. But I also found myself thinking that much of what Bernstein had to say about the scriptive things she described might also be applied to novelty salt and pepper shakers–most obviously, to ones like those representing black stereotypes like the one I’ve described in previous entries, such as this set of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose I discussed here and here[.] But, I found myself thinking, why stop there? The concept of scriptive things seemed like an intriguing and, for me, new of thinking about the objects we surround ourselves with and use on a daily basis. It might well throw light, not just on the shaker sets with African American connections, but on a whole range of other sets depicting a whole range of different kinds of subjects. So I’ve decided to do some thinking about that, in a series of entries to follow.

Yes, why stop there? Kitchens--indeed, whole houses--are full of scriptive things that create meaning in a myriad of ways. This is the best part of being an academic: when other scholars apply your ideas in contexts you never could have imagined. I'm so glad that my book has proved useful to Perry Nodelman, and I can't wait for the "entries to follow!"