Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A10. No Place Like Home: The American House as Biography

How does a doorway identify the person who lives behind it? What can the size of a kitchen or bathroom tell us about our relationship to food, or our perception of our bodies? Are we able to read religious beliefs or sexual orientation in a floorplan? In this seminar we will consider the intersection of American domestic architecture and personal identity, taking into account the many ways that gender, class, race, sexuality, regional identity, and morality have shaped (and in some cases revolutionized) the places we call home. From cabins built by enslaved men and women in the nineteenth century, to the space-age bachelor pads of the 1960s, houses tell stories about who we are, who we were, and who we aspire to be. Students will examine a range of theoretical writings on domestic architecture; they will develop “visual literacy” through the analysis of images and plans; and ultimately, they will consider the ways biography has been interpreted (or re-interpreted) in local house museums.

R. Tripp EvansR. Tripp Evans
Mary L. Heuser Chair in the Arts