'Louis-Philippe, or the Interior'

Text

'Under Louis-Philippe the private citizen enters the stage of history …..
For the private person, living space becomes, for the first time, antithetical to the place of work. The former is constituted by the interior; the office is its complement. The private person who squares his accounts with reality in his office demands that the interior be maintained in his illusions. This need is all the more pressing since he has no intention of extending his commercial considerations into social ones. In shaping his private environment he represses both. From this spring the phantasmagorias of the interior. For the private individual environment represents the universe. In it he gathers remote places and past. His drawing room is a box in the world theater.'

Commentary

In this extract from an essay that investigated the character of the early-nineteenth-century French bourgeois interior, the German cultural philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin drew a distinction between domestic space and other forms of public space. The distinction was extremely influential and has been conceptualised under the term 'separate spheres', as investigated in the historical study by Leonora Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: men and women of the English middle class, 1780-1850. Subsequent historical interpretation has questioned whether there ever was such a clearly defined distinction between public and private as suggested by Benjamin but the concept remains a useful conceptual framework for thinking about the domestic interior.

Themes

Boundaries and Thresholds
Room Disposition and Function

Dominant Representational Strategies

Idea

Dwelling

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

Activities

Type
Intellectual, Cultural and Spritual
Physical States and Actions
Detail
Contemplating
Thinking
Looking

Rooms

Type
Historical Terminology
Drawing room

Inhabitants

Type
People
Detail
Male
Unspecified

Objects

Type
The Arts, Recreation and Ceremony
Detail

Bibliography

Davidoff, Leonore and Hall, Catherine, Family Fortunes: men and women of the English middle class, 1780-1850, London: Hutchinson, 1987.

Direct Cross-References

‘Louis-Philippe, or the Interior’

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

Book, JA1001

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.154-155.

Originally published 'Paris, die Hauptstadt des XIX. Jahrhunderts,' in Illuminationen, Frankfurt on Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1955
Copyright
Location
Record ID
JA1002