An erudite and highly enjoyable exploration of the most intriguing of personal spaces, from Greek and Roman antiquity through today
The winner of France’s prestigious Prix Femina Essai (2009), this imaginative and captivating book explores the many dimensions of the room in which we spend so much of our lives—the bedroom. Eminent cultural historian Michelle Perrot traces the evolution of the bedroom from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans to today, examining its myriad forms and functions, from royal king’s chamber to child’s sleeping quarters to lovers’ trysting place to monk’s cell. The history of women, so eager for a room of their own, and that of prisons, where the principal cause of suffering is the lack of privacy, is interwoven with a reflection on secrecy, walls, the night and its mysteries.
Drawing from a wide range of sources, including architectural and design treatises, private journals, novels, memoirs, and correspondences, Perrot’s engaging book follows the many roads that lead to the bedroom—birth, sex, illness, death—in its endeavor to expose the most intimate, nocturnal side of human history.
Michelle Perrot is professor emeritus at Paris VII and one of France’s most distinguished cultural historians. She has received numerous awards and honors in France and abroad for her published histories of work, prisons, private life, and women. Lauren Elkin is an award-winning writer and translator.
“[A] fascinating book” —Helen Davies, The Sunday Times
“A thrilling survey of bedrooms across the centuries takes in sex and privacy, God and glamour, rest and death” — Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
“An essay on the bedroom, the room turned askance and viewed via its various uses, turns into a history of privacy and what, exactly, identity, comfort, sequestration and ownership might have meant through the ages to writers as diverse as the Marquis de Sade, Franz Kafka and Emily Dickinson — and to those denied a room of their own.”— Lucy Watson, Financial Times
“Bedrooms are spaces of desires and dreams, but also of entrapment and death. In this elegant and imaginative book, Michelle Perrot traces the complex history of an intimate space in which we spend a third of our life.”—Daniel Juette, New York University
“This stunningly original, evocative, and beautiful book is the brilliant work of Michelle Perrot, one of the most accomplished historians of our time. ‘The flowers of the imagination’ bloom in bedrooms, places for contemplation and writing, sites of silence and secrecy. This is a marvelous, engaging study.”—John Merriman, Yale University
“Packed with erudite detail yet as enticing as a half-open bedroom door, this elegant book reveals the intimate history of the nursery and the boudoir, the monk’s cell and the royal chamber.”—Joanna Scutts, author of The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It
“Michelle Perrot has written a deeply researched, beautiful, and narratively absorbing history of the bedroom that captures all the romance, tension, and violence that has taken place in this most intimate of human spaces.”—Rachel Syme, Writer
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