At Home in the City: Urban Domesticity in American Literature and Culture, 1850-1930 / Edition 1

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In the middle of the nineteenth century, urban families began to inhabit apartment houses, boarding houses, tenements, and hotels. These multi-unit residences began to define American city landscapes, a shift that had enormous interpersonal and cultural repercussions. These new forms of housing altered the ways in which Americans inhabited and understood urban space. Helping to create among city dwellers a distinctively modern subjectivity were a host of writers (among them, Hawthorne, James, and Nella Larsen) who experimented in prose with the possibilities and dangers of urban space. Reformers, planners, and engineers simultaneously helped to shape urban sensibilities by experimenting with architectural form in the city’s physical landscape, often hoping to shape a particular type of citizen with their designs.

Imaginatively juxtaposing literary criticism with a history of the built environment, Klimasmith examines urban domestic fiction alongside architectural, sociological, and photographic texts of the period, pairing important American novels with developments in urban domestic architecture. Arguing that nineteenth and early-twentieth-century residential spaces were always more fluid and dynamic than traditional scholarship holds, her study allows us to witness the unfolding of modernity and to view the modernist subject at its very inception.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Beautifully written and illustrated...this book is a fascinating read from a promising young scholar. Anyone interested in urban studies, American historical fiction, and architecture will be delighted.” —Choice

Klimasmith “brings new insights into the lived experiences of urban dwellers, challenging both contemporary accounts as well as more recent scholarship.”—H-Urban

"Klimasmith successfully guides readers through a literary and artistic terrain that enables us all to become more At Home in the City"—Studies in American Naturalism

"Betsy Klimasmith's At Home in the City is a genuine pleasure to read. The narrative seamlessly moves from close readings of urban novels to discussions about architectural designs of tenements and boarding houses as well as of New York's Central Park. It analyzes the interiority of urban domestic fiction then literally and figuratively goes outside, to extra-literary sources. It is as if the very structure of the book confirms its central observation: the boundedness of the rural home gave way to an urban domesticity, where home is understood in terms of permeability, interconnectedness, and the fluidity of private and public spaces."—Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584654971
  • Publisher: University of New Hampshire Press
  • Publication date: 11/4/2005
  • Series: Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

BETSY KLIMASMITH is associate professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Architectural Determinism and the Industrial City in The Blithedale Romance and Ruth Hall
The City’s Drawing-Room: Spatial Practice in The Bostonians and Central Park
The Tenement Home: Pushing the City’s Limits
The Apartment as Utopia: Reimagining the City, Reconstructing the Home
From Artifact to Investment: Hotel Homes, the Economics of Luxury, and The Custom of the Country
The Paradox of Intimacy: Mobility, Sociology, and the Function of Home in Quicksand

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2007

    Extensively Researched, Well Formulated, and Written to be Read

    Ms. Klimasmith's At Home In The City is a wonderful work of scholarship. The author skillfully draws upon numerous perspectives of literary theory as well as cultural studies to explore the constructive nature 'or relationship' between the individual and his or her environment as depicted in literature during the rapid development of the American city during the late 19th early 20th century. Like a New Historicist the author draws on various sources from that time period. These sources include novels from authors such as, Hawthorne, Fern, Wharton, Crane, Gilman, Larsen, and James as well as articles from numerous periodicals of the period. Ms. Klimasmith also draws upon the work of social activists, such as Jacob Riis, and the architects of the American Landscape, such as Frederick Law Olmsted. The author reads these works in various combinations illustrating many themes, including, elements of architectural determinism, tensions between changing areas of domestic space, the modern development of culture as commodity, and of course the relationship that the individual shares with these developments. The breadth of this work goes beyond what I have noted in this short review. The sources are extensive and the arguments are presented in an organized and interesting manner. I really like the way the author uses fiction to inform historical analysis. Anybody interested in American fiction or history, cultural studies, or literary criticism will like this book.

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