About Modernism in the Home

Studies of modernism and the home are wide-ranging; this international conference will reflect the broad scope of research, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue between literary, arts and cultural sectors. We will interrogate the historical, theoretical and thematic intersections occurring in the domestic sphere in the early twentieth century. We want to reconsider and discuss the aesthetic, social, political, technological, artistic, scientific, cultural and textual relationship between modernism and the home, in a global context.

Classic anti-domestic rhetorics of modernity have often aligned the domestic with the private, designating it a lesser to the democratic, masculine and thoroughly ‘modern’ public sphere. With its cries of ‘Make it New!’, modernism staged a bold protest against the constraints of Victorian domesticity. Yet as contemporary re-evaluations by scholars such as Chiara Briganti, Barbara Penner, Morag Shiach, Kathy Mezei, Clair Wills and Victoria Rosner suggest, the home remains a crucial space for the interrogation of our cultural relationships with technology, class, race, sexuality, and gender. The early years of the twentieth century saw this ubiquitous space evolve. No longer an emblem of Victorian patriarchy, the house became a more boundless entity whose shifting boundaries and notions of propriety were tied up with the rapidly changing cultures of consumerism and technology.

Modernism in the Home invites discussion that critiques, questions, and offers new readings of the home, challenging stereotypes surrounding the historical binary that posits the domestic realm as private, feminine, and anti-modern. We want to explore the symbiosis between architecture and literature, public and private, the house and the novel. By engaging with artists, architects and authors whose work intersects with the domestic, we hope to examine the evolving nature of the home and its inhabitants in the early twentieth century.

We are delighted to announce that our keynote speakers will be Professor Morag Shiach (Queen Mary University) and Professor Barbara Penner (The Bartlett School of Architecture). Professor Shiach’s work focuses on the changing nature of domestic interiors in the early twentieth century, challenging traditional associations of modernity with public space. Professor Penner’s current research focuses on ‘cardiac kitchens’ in the post-war period, and more broadly looks at themes of domestic technologies, domestic labour and domestic bodies.

Modernism in the Home will be held on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd July 2019 at the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the Centre for Modernist Cultures.

The conference programme will include a tour of Winterbourne House and Gardens and a walking tour of the Bournville Estate by historian Michael Harrison.

For more information, please email us at modernisminthehome@gmail.com.