Geoffrey Galt Harpham is an American academic, the author of several books, and the President and Director of the National Humanities Center. His most recent book is The Humanities and the Dream of America.
"To call something a thing is not to describe it, but to position it in a sequence of emergent understanding. What we call things have emerged into the conceptual field as a problem, a challenge to our vocabulary: their identity has not been determined, but ignoring them is no longer an option. We are half-aware of them as features of the general surround, and they awaken the possibility that material objects, which appear to us primarily as anonymous, random, mute, inert, or functional, can possess a kind of individuality, identity, even an ambiguous vivacity. To live amidst things is to inhabit an atmosphere of vague solicitation, like walking down the corridors of a museum in a state of preoccupation that precludes a direct or conscious engagement with the paintings themselves, but permits an awareness of the immediate availability of potentially meaningful forms."