The paradox of body, building and motion in seventeenth-century England

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Kimberley Skelton
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Across the early decades of the seventeenth century, Englishmen and women moved through a physical, social, and mental world organised into a carefully maintained balance of motion and pause. This book examines how seventeenth-century English architectural theorists and designers rethought the domestic built environment in terms of mobility, as motion became a dominant mode of articulating the world across discourses. These discourses encompassed philosophy, political theory, poetry, and geography. From mid-century, the house and estate that had evoked staccato rhythms became triggers for mental and physical motion-evoking travel beyond England's shores, displaying vistas, and showcasing changeable wall surfaces. The book sets in its cultural context a strand of historical analysis stretching back to the nineteenth century Heinrich Wolfflin. It brings together the art, architectural, and cultural historical strands of analysis by examining why seventeenth-century viewers expected to be put in motion and what the effects were of that motion. Vistas, potentially mobile wall surface, and changeable garden provided precisely the essential distraction that rearticulated social divisions and assured the ideal harmony. Alternately feared and praised early in the century for its unsettling unpredictability, motion became the most certain way of comprehending social interactions, language, time, and the buildings that filtered human experience. At the heart of this book is the malleable sensory viewer, tacitly assumed in early modern architectural theory and history whose inescapable responsiveness to surrounding stimuli guaranteed a dependable world from the seventeenth century.

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