"No Place Like Home?": The Politics of
Home-spaces in the Eighteenth Century

Shari Evans and Mary Rooks
University of New Mexico


We begin this course by examining the word "home," hoping to engage students' imaginations and interest with this seemingly universal trope that is familiar to all of us, although it manifests itself variously. Working from illustrations of a wide variety of actual and imagined eighteenth-century houses, short descriptive texts on home and village spaces, and our students' own experiences and memories, we sketch out an ideology of owned space-a working set of assumptions about what a home symbolizes, its role in the development of personal and cultural identity, and the politics of ownership. We consider historical developments, like the "threat" of the middle class looking to purchase or build homes and the decreasing ability of the laboring class to find stable housing, as well as ownership laws, concepts of domestic life, and the perils oftravel to set up our analysis of space as a commentary on gender,ethnic, and class relations. Our goal is to start students thinking about what Henri Lefebvre calls "transparent spaces," spaces of ideology that are invisible to us because we exist within them, by exposing them to the conflict between safe and unsafe spaces.

By looking at home as a dynamic space that serves as a site for the intersection of mobile elements that Michel de Certeau theorizes, we hope to encourage students to see the overlapping and conflicting cultural ideologies that meet in that space. To this end, we use a variety of texts, from the central literary text we will use as a sort of home-space for each sequence to philosophical and political treatises, medical texts, artwork, and popular magazines. In addition, we maneuver through a variety of literary forms-multiple novels, poems, and a play-in order to see even the site of literature as mobile. We see space, especially the space of home, as politically charged, and consider the appropriation of space to be a political act and access to space to be fundamentally related to social status and power. Our students are encouraged to locate the vectors of power and status in the texts we read, to notice the ways access to those spaces furthers the goals of specific systems of power, and to consider the ways specific writers manipulate space to challenge those allocations of power and control. Also, the concept of home as a dynamic space of contact forces us to consider issues related to travel-Who can leave the home? Who has access to other spaces? Who is allowed movement? The possibility of-or prohibition from-movement is incredibly important at a time when even social classes seem capable of dangerous movement and when women are struggling to move out of confined private spaces and into public spaces.


We start the course with a class-made description of the standard cultural American home. On the first day, we ask students to draw their dream house, and then we attempt to deconstruct the ideologies that form the building material of those houses. Here we identify crucial questions for the course, locating ourselves in time and place-inside, perhaps, a "National" house, a classed or raced or gendered house-and talk about what those locations mean. At midterm, we ask students to "write" their own homes, to examine what goes in to the making of what they consider to be home or what they would like home to be. This written response contrasts with the visual representation with which they began the course, as we see the ways the language of our descriptions also calls forth meaning. For in-class writing, students describe the homespaces they find in each literary text we read-even, and perhaps, especially, if those home-spaces contradict one another. This way we have available class-defined home-spaces that we can compare to one another so that, by the end of the semester, we are able to make visible those transparent spaces and the ideology that lurks behind them. At the end of the course, students redraw their dream houses, seeing the ways they have changed as our understanding of home has progressed.

Since we are located at a public university in New Mexico, with its abundance of Pueblo- and Spanish-influenced architecture, and since many of our students have never left this region, we also take time in the beginning of the semester to draw a comparison between the lived spaces of our environment and the lived spaces of eighteenth-century England. To do this, we examine eighteenth-century architectural plans of both city and country dwellings in England, noting the different ideological implications of, in Gaston Bachelard's terms, "vertical" dwellings (with their attics and cellars) in opposition to the more circular, enclosed style of many Spanish-influenced homes built around courtyards. Together, we explore the ways we move through different spaces and the ways those movements are limited and controlled by architectural design.

In addition to short daily writing assignments, students engage in panel presentations that bring different views of home and cultural spaces into the course. In order to immerse our students in eighteenth-century culture, and to help them better engage the core texts, we expect them to do research in primary sources and on topics that will augment our discussion. They research eighteenth-century journals like Town and Country, The Bee, and The Daily Gazetteer; contemporary texts like Charlotte Charke's Narrative of the Life of Charlotte Charke and Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman; and finally, issues like competing pedagogical philosophies, the dangers of travel, the life of the soldier, and masquerades. Further, we familiarize students with recent theory (feminist, cultural, postcolonial) and aid them in using these various approaches to examine the texts we read, hoping to expand and complicate the ideas of home we discover.

Two short response papers and two essays, grouped with the four sequences of readings, allow students to respond to and build on the aspects of home that most intrigue them and to consider the way these ideas play themselves out in the texts they choose to engage. Our final exam encourages students to synthesize the material that we have engaged as a class and to see the ways their ideas have changed over the course of the semester.


This interdisciplinary course exposes students to an assortment of texts designed to help them perceive the multiple ideologies that meet in any space, but especially in the space of home. By focusing on one literary text in each sequence as a sort of home-space for the class, students are able to critically engage and make visible the transparent spaces they encounter in the texts and, we hope, also in their own lives. The concept of home is extremely important to the study of the eighteenth century, especially since so much of the writing of the time seems caught up in containing, delineating, and defining; in drawing boundaries between self and other; and in protection from mobility-of class, gender, ethnicity. The idea of home as a central site of discourse exposes students to a holistic vision of the eighteenth century that allows them to engage and understand, across time and culture, vectors of ideology that continue to play in our lives today.


The course is divided into four overlapping sequences: "Defining Home," "Home as Haven?" "Housing Understanding," and "Home as Absence." Each integrates a core literary prose text with poetry, illustrations, philosophical treatises, historical and legal documents, medical texts, and/or excerpts from popular magazines. In the first sequence, "Defining Home," we look at the ways nation, gender, occupation, and class create or challenge the idea of home. Our central text, Aphra Behn's The Rover, or The Banished Cavaliers, provides a particularly advantageous starting point because the setting, in Naples during carnival, not only reveals representations of "Englishness" in high relief against a foreign backdrop, but also invites analysis of the meaning of home for the exiled. Most important in this text are the questions it raises about confinement and filial duty, its play with disguise and cross-dressing (and hence with crossing sexual and class boundaries), and its exploration of issues of courtship and honor. It is also worth noting that The Rover, which first appeared on stage in 1677, was produced almost continually from 1685-1743, and was revived in 1757 at Covent Garden, making it central to a collective British eighteenth-century consciousness.

Placed up against The Rover are several poems that define and dramatize private female spaces (and their invasion) and that highlight the contrast between reality and that mask of appearances which often allows both access to certain spaces and movement between them. In The Rover, "dressing a part" is central to the female characters' escape from many types of gendered confinement. For example, it allows Helena's physical movement away from the watchful, controlling eyes of her brother (and, through him, of her father) and from the space of their house. It also gives her emotional movement away from the impending religious expectations of a nunnery and access to a different understanding of her potential lover Willmore, whom she first approaches dressed as a gypsy for the Carnival. Though play with dress grants freedoms of movement to both sexes in The Rover, it also poses classed and gendered dangers. Florinda, for instance, is nearly raped when Blunt takes her for a common wench, and Blunt is duped by a prostitute he takes for a finer lady in disguise.

Control over private spaces, one's body for example, and over appearances are, of course, significant themes in Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room," where Strephon's invasion of the privacy of Celia's chamber may be interpreted as a rape, certainly as an invasion. Along with the poetry in this section, we have included several tracts on courtship and "painting faces"-again, in order to flesh out cultural context. Additionally, students read excerpts from Alexander's The History of Women (which emphasize the importance of nation in constructing femininity and its virtues and vices), and selections from The Rules and Regulations of the Magdalene House which usefully provide a backdrop for the ever present "Sign of Angellica." Hogarth's Before and After brings sexual adventure home to England and, in the depiction of a woman's bedroom, invites further discussion of private, gendered space.

Returning to England in our second sequence, "Home as Haven?" brings the focus to home-spaces as symbols of industry, aristocratic values, and social stability, and as corner-stones of patriarchy, class distinction, and gender definitions. Henry Fielding's Tom Jones is a wonderful text to begin this discussion, as "Paradise Hall" embodies much of the traditional ideology we associate with home. At the same time, this ideology is challenged by disruptive elements in the home, by groups unbound by stable home-spaces (soldiers and gypsies, for example), by the ever-pressing contrast of country (as safe home-space) and city (as licentious space), and by the threat of the "outsider," the bastard Tom Jones, to traditional inheritance laws. Tom's travels away from safe space define and develop the meaning of that space for both Tom as individual character and "Paradise Hall" as social symbol.

Hierarchies of power are central to any discussion of Tom Jones or "home," so our secondary sources provide a framework for these issues. Legal information from Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England joins with popular essays from The Spectator to complicate relationships between master and servant, parent and child, landowner and landless, revealing the ways these hierarchies defy civil constraints. We use such poems as Pope's "Winsdor Forest" and Gay's Trivia to set up the eighteenth century tension between city and country. Further, excerpts from Shaftsbury's Miscellany #3 and other popular essays help us explore the breakdown of tradition and "Englishness" critics feared was happening in London and throughout the nation as class became visible as a social construct and the aristocracy lost its monetary (and moral) hold on England. Hogarth's A Rake's Progress adds visual context for our analysis of class transgressions and city temptations.

Tom Jones, with its libertinism (often associated with aristocratic home-spaces and values), its sexually free women (often unbound by home-space), its prisons (which force alienation from homespace), and its dichotomous representation of country and city, dovetails nicely with Sarah Fielding's The Countess of Dellwyn. In the third sequence, "Housing Understanding," students investigate the story of a woman from whom home is stolen. Building on selections from Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding on the connection between environment and identity, we begin to unravel the consequences of home-less living. Like Tom Jones, the Countess grows up in a seemingly ideal home-space. Her troubles begin when she is forced to leave this space and travel to London. But the concept of home is not redefined in her travels-it is obliterated. The Countess's life becomes a series of spectacles, a movement through empty, fluid space defined only by the objects that surround her from moment-to-moment. Her deterioration into a being with no moral compass, her divorce and public shame, her flight from England, and her eventual isolation ground morality, social status, and gender identity in safe space.

Starting with Fielding's Preface, in which she identifies herself as a philosopher-novelist concerned with the relationship between environment and moral reasoning, we locate this novel in eighteenth-century discourses on understanding. By reading Locke's concepts of the relationship between the external world and the workings of the individual mind, particularly as they apply to moral responsibility, against readings from other philosophical tracts such as Hobbes' Leviathan and Shaftebury's Inquiry Concerning Virtue, students are exposed to a range of views concerning human motivation to action and the role external reality plays therein. In The Countess, for example, disease, or dis-ease-of body, mind, and spirit-becomes central to our discussion of home as the house of the body loses its foundation amidst the corrupting element of the city's-and the aristocracy's-vice-ridden surroundings. Using poetry, essays, and excerpts from the Commentaries on the Laws of England, we situate female understanding in the physical and emotional "spaces" of courtship, marriage, and motherhood. Defoe's Conjugal Lewdness, for example, helps to expose the prostitution of women in the marriage market and Hogarth's A Harlot's Progress provides a visual representation parallel to the ruination of male virtue we examine in connection with Tom Jones.

In our fourth and final sequence, "Home as Absence," we further examine what happens when there is no possessed home-space. Our central text, Cecilia, embodies the idea of homelessness and the dangers that absence creates. The title character of this novel is orphaned and taken from her mother-figure in the country to various male guardians in London. Although excessively wealthy, she is forced into movement she doesn't want in order to meet the terms of her father's will. In addition, the central theme of the novel is marriage and, thus, the making of home. Cecilia's guardians try to force her into marriage, and her sizeable fortune attracts unsavory prospects. But Cecilia herself is uninterested in marriage (for most of the novel) and instead wants to focus on philanthropy and a return to her female friend in the country. Most interestingly, this novel serves as a site in which a variety of dangerous spaces intersect. We are exposed to issues of class as the wealthy bourgeois Cecilia comes up against the aristocratic but struggling Delwyns and the miserly, class-less Mr. Briggs; as the impoverished, but educated, Belvilles struggle to find a home; and as Cecilia travels into impoverished homes on her pilgrimages of benevolence. We see issues of race/ethnicity when Cecilia encounters a Jew from whom she is forced to borrow money and who embodies many contemporary stereotypes of "Jewishness." We encounter issues of gender as we see Cecilia battle for agency and personal space throughout the novel. Finally, we are exposed to more esoteric dangerous spaces, like the space of madness in which Cecilia finds herself at the end of the novel.

In this sequence, we explore what happens when home itself becomes an unsafe space, especially if it is not one's own, as Cecilia opens questions of domestic power relations. Like Tom Jones, as Cecilia travels from the safety and security of her country lodgings, definitions of home emerge and evolve. But the consequences of venturing outside of the home-space are very different for these two characters. As in The Rover and The Countess of Dellwyn, we see the ways a woman's control of her only true home-space, her person/her body, is in fact limited by her connections to guardians and society. Of particular interest here is the grounding of women in the domestic sphere, where they have little or no power of ownership and are reduced to mere conduits for wealth, land, or title. The evolving definition of Cecilia's home-spaces raises questions about the importance of being able to control, own, and define space. The site of madness becomes centrally important in this sequence as students engage a variety of texts that deal with issues of insanity, confinement, and gender. We draw on contemporary medical texts on madness, like George Cheyne's The English Malady, as well as Defoe's Augusta Triumphans, which examines women's position in marriage and the "vile practice" of securing a wife in a madhouse. This takes us to Blackstone's legal discussion of the relationship of guardian to ward and of the dangers to which women with money were exposed. To expand our understanding of the outsider in this text, we look to various Spectator discussions of Jews, religious zealots, and prisons. Similarly, a variety of essayists aid our examination of controlled spaces, as we look to gardens as extensions of enclosed spaces and investigate the ways these constricting/restricted environments put into further relief the lack of control the main character has over her own life and her own access to and through space.


"No Place Like Home?": The Politics of Home-spaces in the Eighteenth Century is designed to invite students into the various home-spaces of the eighteenth century, to encourage them to see the relevance of eighteenth-century discourses to the ideologies that determine their own lives, and to make visible the historical material of those lives. Home becomes a space that is thick with possibility-with possible fulfillment, but also with the dangers of confinement-and students' readings of the multiple, interdisciplinary, texts of the course provide them with the means to name those various possibilities.



Week One
First Construction: Defining Home
Intro to the 18th Century
Architectural Slide Show: Drawing Lived Spaces

First Construction: Defining Home
Draw your dream house.
>What is "home" & what does it represent?
>What is an ideal home & why?
>What different spaces make up home?
>What do these spaces represent? How do they look?
>How is this an "American" home?
>What is transparent space?

Read: de Certeau, from "Spacial Stories"
(The Practice of Everyday Life)
Lefebvre, from "Plan of the Present Work"
(The Production of Space)
Spectator 106, 108, 112 [Sir Roger's house]
Leapor, "Crumble Hall"

Sequence One: Defining "Home"
Why think you there be Carnivals, but that men, and
women too, may be free as they will ere Lent be come?
Nay, dally not!

Week Two
Read: Behn's The Rover

Read: Behn's The Rover
The Guardian 100 [wearing tuckers]; Spectator 41 [painting faces], 51, & 410 [appearances]; Evelyn, "Preface" from
Mundus Muliebris, or The Ladies Dressing-Room Unlock'd, and Her Toilette Spread

Week Three
Read: Pope, from Rape of the Lock; Monk, "On Miranda's Toilette"; Swift, "The Progress of Beauty" & "The Lady's Dressing Room"; Montagu, "The Reasons that Induced Dr. S[wift] to Write a Poem Called the Lady's Dressing Room"; Finch, "The Petition for an Absolute Retreat"

Read: Selections from The History of Women & Rules and Regulations of the Magdalene House; Spectator 266 [prostitution & compassion], 276 [letters/prostitution], & 430 [the poor]; Selections from Blackstone, "Of the Rise, Progress, and Gradual Improvements, of the Laws of England"

Hogarth, Before & After

Week Four
DUE: Response 1

Sequence Two: "Home as Haven?"
Neither Mr. Allworthy's house, nor his heart, were shut
against any part of mankind, but they were both more
particularly open to men of merit. To say the truth, this was
the only house in the kingdom where you was sure to
gain a dinner by deserving it.

Week Four (cont.)
Read: Tom Jones

Week Five
Read: Tom Jones
Hogarth, The Rake's Progress

Week Six
Read: Tom Jones

Read: Selections from Blackstone, "Of Master and Servant," "Of Parent and Child"; Crowley, "The Danger of an Honest Man in Much Company"; Shaftesbury, from Miscellany III

Week Seven
Read: Pope, "Windsor-Forest"; Gray, "Eton College"; Gay, "Of Walking the Streets by Night"; Swift, "Description of a City Shower" & "A Description of the Morning"; Spectator, 88 [servants], 117 [witchcraft], 130 [gypsies], 474 [country/ city]; Tatler 240 [doctors]; Selections from Blackstone [on property]


Sequence Three: Housing Understanding
The gayest, the most covetous, or the most ambitious
Disposition, in the midst of the most earnest Pursuit of
Pleasure, Money, or Honours, could not possibly be more
displeased at being reminded that this world is not a lasting
Home, than Lady Dellwyn was at her Lord's reminding her,
that his Castle was her proper Habitation.

Week Eight
Second Construction: Writing Home-Space

Second Construction: Writing a Home-space
Writing assignment: Write "home."
Consider what ideology(ies) you use to construct
your home and what desires fuel that construction.
>How is your house a gendered space? How is it
classed? How is it racially inscribed?
>How is it defined by nation/ethnicity/neighborhood?
>What make your house distinct?
>How do bodies move through your home-space?
What is expected of them and how are they limited?
>Who is invited into this home and who is excluded?

Read: Selections: Hobbes, Locke, Shaftesbury Preface to The Countess of Dellwyn

DUE: Essay 1

Fall Break

Week Nine
Read: The Countess of Dellwyn
Hogarth, The Harlot's Progress

Week Ten
Read: The Countess of Dellwyn
Read: Selections from Defoe, Conjugal Lewdness & Augusta Triumphans; Blackstone, "Of Husband and Wife"

Week Eleven
Read: Montagu, "Epistle from Mrs. Yonge to Her Husband"; Pope, "Of the Characters of Woman"; Finch, "The Unequal
Fetters"; Philips, "An Answer to Another Persuading a Lady to Marriage"

Read: Selections from Cheyne, The English Malady ["Increase in Later Years"]; Selections from Hunter Three Hundred
Years of Psychiatry
[Vapours, Madness, Spleen]

Week Twelve
DUE: Response 2

Sequence Four: Home as Absence
. . . she was tired, indeed, of dissipation, and shocked at
the sight of unfeeling extravagance; but notwithstanding
the houses of each of her other guardians were exempt
from these particular vices, she saw not any prospect of
happiness with either of them . . .

Week Twelve (cont.)
Read: Cecilia

Week Thirteen
Read: Cecilia

Week Fourteen
Read: Cecilia
Hogarth, Marriage à la Mode

Week Fifteen
Read: Selections from Cowley, "Of Agriculture"; Selections from Cheyne, The English Malady
Read: Selections from Defoe, Augusta Triumphans; Spectator 39 [imagination], 82 [Ludgate/debt], 414 [landscape architecture], 494 [religious practice], 495 [Jews]; selections from Blackstone, "Of Guardian and Ward," "Of Public Wrongs"

Week Sixteen
DUE: Essay 2

Third Construction:
Renovating our House(s)
(Review and Reconceptualization)

Third Construction: Renovating our House(s)
Draw your dream house as you see it now.
Writing assignment: Compare this dream house
to the one you drew at the beginning of the semester.
>What changes do you see? What do theyindicate in terms of shifting ideologies/shifting desires?
>How is your "American" house still "American"?
Still gendered? Still classed? Still a racial house?
>What transparent spaces are visible to you now that were not visible at the beginning of the semester?

Finals Week: Final Exam



Behn, Aphra. The Rover. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Burney, Frances. Cecilia. Eds. Peter Sabor and Margaret Anne Doody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones. Eds. Fredson Bowers and Martin C. Battestin. New York:
Modern Library, 1994.

Fielding, Sarah. The History of the Countess of Dellwyn. London: A. Millar, 1759.
Garland Reprint: The Flowering of the Novel.


Photocopy Packet

Alexander, William. From The History of Women. Bristol, England: Thoemmes Press,

Blackstone, William. From Commentaries on the Laws of England. Oxford: Clarendon, 1770.

Certeau, Michel de. "Spacial Stories." The Practice of Everyday Life. Minneapolis: U of
Minnesota P, 1991.

Cheyne, George. From The English Malady. Ed. Roy Porter. London:
Tavistock/Routledge, 1991.

Defoe, Daniel. From Augusta Triumphans. London: J. Roberts, 1728.

-. From Conjugal Lewdness. Scolars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1967.

Demaria, Robert. Jr., ed. British Literature 1640-1789: An Anthology. Oxford, UK:
Blackwell, 1996. Selections:
o John Gay. "Of Walking the Streets by Night"
o Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea. "The Petition for an Absolute
Retreat" & "The Unequal Fetters"
o Mary Leapor. "Crumble Hall"

Evelyn, Mary. Mundus Muliebris, or, The Ladies Dressing-Room Unlock'd, and Her
Toilette Spread
. London: R. Bentley, 1690. Early English Books Series.

Gray, Thomas. "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College." Norton Anthology of
English Literature.

The Guardian: #100

Hobbes, Thomas. From Leviathan. Ed. J. C. A. Gaskin. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

Hunter, Richard, and Ida Macalpine. From Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry 1535-
1860: A History Presented in Selected English Texts
. Hartsdale, New York:
Carlisle, 1982.

Lefebvre, Henri. "Plan of the Present Work." The Production of Space. Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 1991.

Locke, John. From Essay concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Peter H. Nidditch.
Oxford: Clarendon, 1975.

Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley. "Epistle from Mrs. Yonge to Her Husband." Norton
Anthology of English Literature.

Pope, Alexander. The Poems of Alexander Pope. Ed. John Butt. New Haven: Yale UP,
o "Of the Characters of Women"
o From The Rape of the Lock
o "Windsor-Forest"

Rogers, Katherine M. and William McCarthy, eds. The Meridian Anthology of Early
Women Writers
. New York: Meridian, 1991. Selections:
o Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. "The Reasons that Induced Dr. S[wift] to Write a
Poem Called the Lady's Dressing Room"
o Katherine Philips. "An Answer to Another Persuading a Lady to Marriage"

Shaftesbury, Third Earl (Anthony Ashley Cooper). From Characteristics of Men,
Manners, Opinions, Times
. Ed. Lawrence E. Klein. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,

The Spectator: 39, 41, 51, 82, 88, 106-108, 112, 117, 130, 266, 276, 410, 414, 430, 474,

Swift, Jonathan. The Writings of Jonathan Swift. Eds. Robert A. Greenberg and William
Bowman Piper. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973.
o "A Description of the Morning"
o "A Description of a City Shower"
o "The Lady's Dressing Room"
o "The Progress of Beauty"



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