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Architectural Identities

Architectural Identities: Domesticity, Literature and the Victorian Middle Classes

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Architectural Identities
    Book Description:

    Including analyses of both canonical and lesser-known Victorian authors,Architectural Identitiesconnects the physical construction of the home with the symbolic construction of middle-class identities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8664-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Art & Art History, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction: The Architecture of Identity
    (pp. 3-25)

    Tucked into uniformly unassuming black portfolios in the archives of the Royal Institute of British Architects lie sketches for archways and cornices, decorative details and street-side elevations, working drafts and contract drawings for a some of the most impressive as well as the most modest homes constructed in Victorian Britain. Poring over the papers of C.J. Richardson, William Burn, Sir Charles Barry, Philip Webb, Sir George Gilbert Scott, Edward Paley, and so many others, one encounters designs for country estates, suburban villas, terraced homes in Chelsea, labourersʹ cottages, aristocratic mansions, lodges, and almshouses. With time and the benefit of reiteration,...

  6. 1 Domestic Boundaries: The Character of Middle-Class Architecture
    (pp. 26-61)

    As the nineteenth century progressed, there was growing emphasis on maintaining the ʹnaturalʹ distinctions between gentlefolk and the ʹlower orders,ʹ particularly in the face of the class mobility (both up and down) that was a characteristic of Englandʹs booming growth. Rapid industrialization, colonial endeavours, and the centralization of the national economy within cities rather than decentralized agrarian pursuits combined to create a sense of cultural movement. People commuted on trains to work, raw materials moved across oceans to be processed before returning to their home countries in the form of goods to be sold, information telegraphed quickly to towns that...

  7. 2 Redesigning Femininity: Expanding the Limits of the Drawing Room
    (pp. 62-110)

    The Victorian drawing room was the quintessential feminized space within the home. It was, quite simply, the place in which women spent most of their days, whether engaged in letter writing, plain or decorative sewing, reading, visiting, conversation, going over household accounts, interviewing servants, or undertaking the many other tasks that might occupy their time. Bedrooms were for sleeping and dressing, dining rooms were for eating, kitchens were for labour ideally left to servants. Children remained largely in nurseries and school rooms. At prescribed times of day, women of the ʹcomfortableʹ middle classes would occupy bedrooms or dining rooms, would...

  8. Earthquakes in London: Passages through One Middle-Class Home
    (pp. 111-134)

    The 1857 painting by Robert Scott Tait entitledA Chelsea Interior(figure 10) shows Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle at home in their drawing room. He wears a long smoking jacket and stands by the fire contemplating the bowl of his long white pipe; she sits, seemingly lost in thoughts of her own, behind a table piled with books and papers. A modern viewer of this painting is most likely to notice first the absolute riot of patterns that fill the room. From the geometric carpet to the flowered wallpaper to the chintz-covered sofa to the bold tablecloth, and even...

  9. 3 Accommodating Masculinity: Staging Manhood in the Dining Room
    (pp. 135-176)

    Victorian ideals of domesticity figured the home as a feminized space that could provide relief from the toil of industrial progress. Fundamentally characterized as private, the value of home lay in its associations with repose and rejuvenation as well as moral strength – all qualities inextricably connected with the woman at the heart of the household. Studies of Victorian domesticity have often inadvertently replicated the feminine-domestic/masculine-public binary by assuming that to interrogate domesticity as an ideological concept primarily requires investigation of womenʹs lives. As such, they have demonstrated significant ways in which the middle-class home and womenʹs domestic labour were...

  10. 4 Boundaries in Flux: The Liminal Spaces of Middle-Class Femininity
    (pp. 177-220)

    As the previous chapters have shown, the spaces of the Victorian middle-class home not only helped identify their occupants; occupants of those spaces also used cultural norms attached to those spaces as a means of creating an identity for themselves or locating themselves within a family, a social network, or domestic ideology more broadly. However, in offering visions of how a woman might identify herself as properly middle-class by locating herself primarily in the drawing room, or how the dining room might engage cultural questions of ideal manhood, Victorian texts rely on the fact that these places held relatively stable...

  11. 5 Fictions of Family Life: Building Class Position in the Nursery
    (pp. 221-259)

    It is a commonplace that childhood was central to the cultural imagination in the Victorian period, that children were idealized and adored. Indeed, many historians have argued that the nineteenth century in England saw a great shift from thinking of children as miniature adults to identifying childhood as a separate, vulnerable, precious time of life during which the child needed and deserved doting care and thorough protection.¹ In looking back on this shift, scholars tend to think of the Victorian middle-class child as omnipresent. For there were cultural tendencies to revere childhood, an explosion of literature explicitly for children, multiple...

  12. Coda: Remodelling the Architecture of Identity
    (pp. 260-278)

    We have hitherto examined a range of Victorian representations of domesticity that at once purport to reflect norms of middle-class existence and yet stand at a distance from the reality of Victorian daily life. This distance is largely a matter of generic conventions. Novels may approach realism but nevertheless are not bound by it, as the fictional worlds they create are ultimately uninhabitable by readers. As we have seen, even autobiographies are typically constructed on a narrative premise that is invested in details that build a particular picture of the development of a writerʹs life; thus writers often choose to...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 279-302)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 303-320)
  15. Index
    (pp. 321-341)