Photojournalism and the Origins of the French Writer House Museum (1881-1914): Privacy, Publicity, and Personality, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Photojournalism and the Origins of the French Writer House Museum (1881-1914)

Privacy, Publicity, and Personality, 1st Edition

By Elizabeth Emery


274 pages

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Why did writers' private homes become so linked to their work that contemporaries began preserving them as museums? Photojournalism and the Origins of the French Writer House Museum addresses this and other questions by providing an overview of the social forces that brought writers' homes to the forefront of the French imagination at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. This study analyzes representations of the apartments and houses of Corneille, Hugo, Balzac, Dumas, Sand, Zola, Loti, Montesquiou, Mallarmé, and Proust, among others, arguing that the writer's home became a contested space and an important part of the French patrimony at this time. This is the first book to emphasize the house museum as an essentially modern construct, and to trace the history of ideas leading to its institutionalization in twentieth-century France. The interdisciplinary study also brings new attention to the importance of photojournalism for fin-de-siècle France - and brings to light fascinating and forgotten examples of 'at home' photography by Dornac and Henri Mairet. Elizabeth Emery provides a fresh and compelling perspective on conjunctions between visual, literary, and material cultures.


'Professor Emery’s detailed study provides a fresh perspective on conjunctions between visual, literary, and material cultures.' Museums & Heritage Magazine

'Emery wears her remarkable erudition lightly…’ Times Literary Supplement

'Photojournalism and the Origins of the French Writer House Museum is a treasure trove of previously unexamined resources and a huge array of unique photographs. The book will no doubt appeal to scholars in a number of fields, such as French studies, nineteenth-century literature and visual culture, cultural history, and museum studies.' H-France

'Emery’s work is groundbreaking for its scholarly focus on the historical context and formation of these museums. It makes for an absorbing read and should inspire us not only to revisit writer museums as sites that celebrated writers’ lives, but also, more importantly, as sites for critical study.' Nineteenth Century French Studies

'Whilst it clearly breaks new ground in highlighting the symbolic weight of the ’writer’s home’ in French fin-de-siècle and belle époque imagination, this book also offers a useful and refreshing synthesis of recent scholarship about the development of the mass-media, the social construction of celebrity and memory studies, human zoos, among others … its inter-disciplinarity clearly enriches its argument through the variety of sources and theories it draws upon. It will be of particular interest to scholars of late nineteenth-century French cultural history and specialists of media studies, visual representations, popular culture and memory and heritage studies.' French History

'In this wide-ranging and exciting study, Elizabeth Emery explore the complex relationship among French writers, their audiences, and the print media in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.' French Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; La Maison d'un artiste: the writer's Home as self-portrait; Writers at home and in the popular press: truth and fiction; From home to habitat: Bricabracomania and la Nouvelle Psychologie; Home life as fiction; Photo-interviews as narrative acts; Literary pilgrimage and the cult of the writer house museum; Conclusion; Works cited; Index.

About the Author

Elizabeth Emery is Professor of French in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Montclair State University, USA.

About the Series

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700-1950

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting provides a forum for the broad study of object acquisition and collecting practices in their global dimensions from 1700 to 1950. The series seeks to illuminate the intersections between material culture studies, art history, and the history of collecting. It takes as its starting point the idea that objects both contributed to the formation of knowledge in the past and likewise contribute to our understanding of the past today. The human relationship to objects has proven a rich field of scholarly inquiry, with much recent scholarship either anthropological or sociological rather than art historical in perspective. Underpinning this series is the idea that the physical nature of objects contributes substantially to their social meanings, and therefore that the visual, tactile, and sensual dimensions of objects are critical to their interpretation. This series therefore seeks to bridge anthropology and art history, sociology and aesthetics. It encompasses the following areas of concern: 1. Material culture in its broadest dimension, including the high arts of painting and sculpture, the decorative arts (furniture, ceramics, metalwork, etc.), and everyday objects of all kinds. 2. Collecting practices, be they institutionalized activities associated with museums, governmental authorities, and religious entities, or collecting done by individuals and social groups. 3. The role of objects in defining self, community, and difference in an increasingly international and globalized world, with cross-cultural exchange and travel the central modes of object transfer. 4. Objects as constitutive of historical narratives, be they devised by historical figures seeking to understand their past or in the form of modern scholarly narratives. The series publishes interdisciplinary and comparative research on objects that addresses one or more of these perspectives and includes monographs, thematic studies, and edited volumes of essays.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / Romanticism