From Robinson Crusoe's cave to Henry Selwyn's hermitage, the domesticinterior tells a story about ",things", and their relation to character and identity. Beginning with a description of a typical middle-class interior in America today-notinghow its contents echo interiors described in literatures of the past-Julia Prewitt Brown askswhy certain features persist, despite radical changes in domestic life over the past three hundredyears. The answer lies, Brown argues, in the way the bourgeois interior functions as a medium, amany-layered fabric across which different energies travel, be they psychological, political, oraesthetic. In this way, objects are not symbols but rather the materials out of which symbols aremade--symbols that constitute the very soul of the bourgeois. In awide-ranging analysis, moving from works by Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, andHenry James to those by Virginia Woolf, Ingmar Bergman, John Updike, and W. G. Sebald, Brown showsthat what is at issue is less the economic basis of class than the bourgeoisie's imaginationof itself. The themes explored include the middle class's ever-increasing desire for morewealth, as well as Victorian women's identification with the domestic interior and the changesthat took place when they began working outside the home. Brown also examines the ambivalence ofeconomically determined objects both as repositories of memory and dreams and as fetishizedcommodities that become detached from everyday reality. Does the bourgeois possess the interior andits objects, or do the interior and its objects possess the bourgeois?
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