Radical Domesticity: Modernism, Gender, and Building the Future 2021
1 May, 2021
The reading list of this 12-week seminar course led by Professor Mary McLeod of Columbia GSAPP and Professor Victoria Rosner from the Department of English at Columbia includes 21 texts written by women, from which this collection is made.
The course introduction explains its critical intentions:
This class explores alternative visions of domestic life from the mid-nineteenth century to the present in both literature and architecture. The phase “radical domesticity” might seem like an oxymoron. Domesticity is often associated with sentimentality, coziness and comfort–the antithesis of the word “radical” or even common understandings of the word “modernism.” However, there is a rich history of experiments and visions of alternative forms of living that challenge the stereotypes of home life. These challenges may be social or aesthetic, involve new models of collectivity or isolation; blur boundaries between private and public life; merge work and child care; and embrace – or reject — new technologies. They often enable different forms of intimacy and sexuality and are designed with that goal in mind.
Architecture and literature, the disciplines of the two instructors of this course, approach domestic life from different perspectives, with architecture focused primarily on questions of form and design, and literature on the lived experience of domesticity. The two fields are being increasingly brought together through the relatively new domain of architectural humanities, and this course will investigate the opportunities and limitation of this approach.
The class begins in the mid-nineteenth century when the ideas of earlier social theorists such as Fourier and Saint Simon led to numerous experiments in communal living in both Europe and the United States, many of which challenged the traditional family and gender roles. These ideas uinfluenced figures as diverse as Charlotte Gilman Perkins, Alice Constance Austin, Le Corbusier, and the founders of 1960s communes, all of whom will be discussed during the term. We will also look diverse imaginings of domestic life, including aestheticism, the modern woman, scientific management and household rationalization, new models of childrearing, minimal dwelling, transparency, communes, work-life residences, etc. The seminar concludes by exploring more recent experiments in domestic life, considering the question of what forms domesticity might take in a post-Covid world.