My PhD project is based on three central aspects of the 19th century intérieur: The intérieur isthe bourgeois space of self-reflection, it is an archive of objects that bear traces, and it is a material utopia where the presence of objects produces a loss of time and space. My thesis is that the main characteristics of European Realism – its concern with objects, its discovery of the narrative power of details and traces, and its search for truth on the surface of things – emerge from these new interpretations of the intérieur.
Since the transformation of the interior into a private space is a symptom of urbanisation, the project focuses on literary texts from the three European metropolises: Paris, London and Berlin. Key authors include: Fontane, Heyse, Raabe; Balzac, Hugo, Flaubert, Maupassant, Stendhal, Zola; Poe, Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope and James. Representatives of aestheticism such as Gautier, Huysmans and Wilde will also play a role. The fictionalintérieurs of these authors narrate of their own accord, they are created through objects which are both conceived and described, and therefore these “talking things” (Daston), in this case ‘talking spaces’, confront us as self-contained ‘characters’, initiating thereby a narrative strategy of decoding traces.