Tales of Seduction: Architecture and Design in Fiction

What makes an object precious to us? How does a particular interior draw us in? Why does a certain architectural façade fascinate us? How does design weave itself into the landscape of our imagination? This course examines material objects, interiors, and buildings as actors or narrators in complex historical plots. These material “storytellers” deflect our attention from familiar narratives of their production towards the more obscure but perhaps more intriguing story of their reception and use. The course opens with Jean-François de Bastide’s The Little House (1748) and culminates with Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room (2009), a work of historical fiction set during the Second World War and constructed around Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat House, completed in 1930. Through a variety of texts and writing assignments, students will endeavor to theorize how and why authors of both period fiction and more recent historical fiction have chosen to focus on material objects and environments in their work. Students will leave the course with an appreciation for fiction as a viable—and vibrant—component of historical research, as well as sense of how to employ it productively and responsibly in their work as historians. 3 credits.