What is a house? And what can architecture tell us about individual psychology, national character and aspiration? The house holds a central place in American mythology, as Marilyn Chandler demonstrates in a series of "house tours" through American novels, beginning with Thoreau's Walden and ending with Toni Morrison's Beloved and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping.
Chandler illuminates the complex analogies between house and psyche, house and family, house and social environment, and house and text. She traces a historical path from settlement to unsettledness in American culture and explores all the rituals in between: of building, decorating, inhabiting, and abandoning houses. She notes the ambivalence between our desire for rootedness and our romanticization of wide open spaces, relating these poles to the tension between materialism and spirituality in our national character.
At a time when housing has become a problem of unprecedented dimensions in America, this look at the place of houses and homes in the American imagination reveals some sources of the attitudes, assumptions, and expectations that underlie the designing and building of the homes we buy, sell, and dream about.
This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1991.