‘Louis-Philippe, or the Interior’

Text

'The interior is the retreat of art. The collector is a true inmate of the interior. He makes the transfiguration of things his business. To him falls the Sisyphean task of obliterating the commodity-like character of things through his ownership of them, but he merely confers connoisseur value on them, instead of intrinsic value. The collector dreams that he is not only in a distant or past world but also, at the same time, in a better one, in which, although men are as unprovided with what they need as in the everyday world, things are free of the drudgery of being useful.
The interior is not only the universe but also the ‘etiu’ of the private person. To live means to leave traces. In the interior these are emphasised. An abundance of cover and protectors, liners and cases is devised, on which the traces of objects of everyday use are imprinted. The traces of the occupant also leave their impression on the interior. The detective story that follows these traces comes into being. His “philosophy of furniture”, along with his detective novellas, shows Poe to be the first physiognomist of the interior. The criminals of the first detective novels are neither gentlemen or apaches, but private members of the bourgeoisie.'

Commentary

Walter Benjamin, the German cultural philosopher and critic, suggests several important ideas about the character of the domestic interior in this short extract from the essay, 'Louis-Philippe, or the Interior'. His focus is the interior as a repository for things, where objects can be transformed from their everyday and functional nature to artistic or connoisseurial value.
In the second paragraph, Benjamin drew a parallel between the study of the interior and the detective novels of Edgar Allan Poe and other writers of the nineteenth century. The idea of the 'physiognomy of the interior' has had a lasting influence on subsequent interpretation of the domestic interior, if only on a metaphorical level.

Themes

Boundaries and Thresholds
Room Disposition and Function

Dominant Representational Strategies

Dwelling

Type
Residential
Detail
Apartment
Historical Terminology
Specified Social Level
Upper Middle
Middle

Activities

Type
Hygiene and Upkeep
Intellectual, Cultural and Spritual
Detail
Arranging
Contemplating
Thinking

Rooms

Type
Multifunctional Living Space
Historical Terminology

Inhabitants

Type
People
Detail
Adults
Male

Objects

Type
Coverings and Hangings
The Arts, Recreation and Ceremony
Detail

Bibliography

Direct Cross-References

'Louis-Philippe, or the Interior'

Benjamin, Walter (author); Demetz, Peter (editor); Jephcott, Edmund (translator) 1955, 1979

Book, JA1002

Indirect Cross-References

‘Melodrama Inside and Outside the Home’

Laura Mulvey 1989

Book, JA1104

Names
Benjamin, Walter (author)
Demetz, Peter (editor)
Jephcott, Edmund (translator)
Date(s)
1955, 1979
Country
Germany
Historical Region
Description
Format
Book
Type
Genre
Other Non-Fictional Prose
Publication
‘Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century’, in Demetz, Peter (ed.), Reflections, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc., 1979, pp.155-6.
Originally published as 'Paris, die Hauptstadt des XIX. Jahrhunderts,' in Illuminationen, Frankfurt on Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1955
Copyright
Location
Record ID
JA1001