University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Secret Passages: Libertinism and the Architecture of Seduction – A presentation by Keith Bresnahan, Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keith Bresnahan is a professor of Design History and Theory at the Ontario College of Art & Design. Prof. Bresnahan is a historian and theorist of architecture and graphic design, whose work considers the political and philosophical dimensions of design in the modern and early modern eras. His research is particularly concerned with models of subjectivity and feeling in architecture, urbanism, and interior design, and with historical claims for the social and political agency of design. Organized by the Design, Architecture, and Culture group of Quadrant .



This talk is also available as an audio download (.mp3 – 52.1 MB) or as a video podcast (.m4v – 237.3 MB).

This talk explores the conjunction of erotic narratives and architectural space in eighteenth-century France, asking what the spaces and furnishings of libertine fiction (boudoirs, cabinets, screens and hidden passages) might reveal about this period’s understanding of the power of architecture to move subjects to action. Bresnahan focuses on a number of texts in which architecture takes a key role in processes of seduction or sensual education, including Jean-François de Bastide’s La Petite Maison (1758), Jacques-François Blondel’s L’Homme du monde éclairé par les arts (1774), and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s “Oikéma” (1804). Considering these through the lens of eighteenth-century sensationalist epistemology, which placed sensory experience and its objects at the heart of subject-formation and social life, Bresnahan shows how these texts—with their curious imbrication of sexual morality, pedagogy, and architectural design—both drew upon and extended the lessons of sensationalist theory for a renewed vision of architecture and its subjects.

Question and Answer

 Sponsored by: Institute for Advanced Study, Theorizing Early Modern Studies (TEMS)

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