Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Merry Wiesner-Hanks

Committee Members

Sarah Anne Carter, Holly Hassel, Christine Evans, Joe Austin


Feminist Pedagogy, Material Culture Theory, Object Lesson, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


In this dissertation, I continue nascent discussions of incorporating material culture in humanities classrooms in higher education. Primarily, this conversation stems from the material turn in the discipline of history, and in the humanities, more generally. It responds to calls that students in higher education must acquire the modes of thinking particular to practitioners within their discipline. My contribution sits at the intersection of material culture theory, feminist pedagogy, and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), and is a work of feminist praxis.

I centralize my own teaching practice and draw extensively from my experiences developing curricula and facilitating spaces of teaching and learning. Knowing that the full breadth of the human experience cannot be understood from consulting written texts alone, I turn to material culture to address gaps and silences. This move, I contend, allows for teachers and learners to represent, highlight, and interrogate a broad range of identities. When rooted in material culture theory, it offers novel epistemological routes for exploring knowledge and meaning-making. My object-centered teaching and learning approach builds from an extant pedagogical form: the object lesson. In the nineteenth century, the object lesson emerged from the theoretical basis that knowledge is to be gained through sensation and reflection. Object lessons provide a scaffolded approach to learning through and with material objects. I have made liberal use of the term and idea throughout this dissertation, as have other researchers and pedagogues.

By bringing practices of engaged pedagogy - that which seeks to create and maintain well-being within the classroom - to bear on object-centered teaching and learning, I make this a distinctively feminist endeavor. I address both why others should engage in similar practices and, through modeling and creating usable resources, how they could undertake such a pedagogical shift. I expand theoretical discussions on authority, identity, and unknowability and how they can be manifest in spaces of teaching and learning and the impact they can have on well-being. Thus, what is distinctive about my research is that I promote, not simply describe and analyze, a material turn in teaching and learning for a broad audience.