아파트 안의 관객과 어려운 자유: 이디스 워튼의 『환락의 집』
Spectator in Apartment and the Difficult Freedom: Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth

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서울대학교 인문대학 영어영문학과
영학논집, vol. 38, pp. 1-19
early 20th century apartmentprivacy illusiondomesticityfreedomEdith WhartonThe House of Mirth
Throughout her oeuvre, Edith Wharton has showed a keen interest on the contemporary living space and its influence on the lives of the upper-class women. City apartment, which is dealt with in depth in The House of Mirth, advanced in the turn of 20th century and with its changed inner structure became the contended locus of the conventional domesticity, the concept of privacy and the freedom in one’s space. In an attempt to read Lily Bart’s gradual slide to “ruin” as a struggle to relish such freedom, this paper maps out how the living space in the early 20th century differently affects people under gender norms focusing on how the space both opens an opportunity for and thwarts Lily’s desire to secure her own space which reflects herself. Whereas a typical 19th century house strictly divided the owner’s “private” area from “public” one intended for entertaining guests, such division weakened in city apartment rendering the space no longer private but quasi-public. The quasi-public trait of living space contradicted the conventional notion of domesticity, which related house with desirable femininity and domestic serenity. The gap between the actual structure of apartment and the old notion brought about “privacy illusion,” which hid the anxiety that one’s house became vulnerable to the eyes of strangers. Such illusion is what mainly makes possible Lawrence Selden’s voyeuristic stance toward Lily in The House of Mirth. Believing that he is safely concealed in his “private” apartment, Selden enjoys watching Lily shining brilliantly in public. What Selden fails to notice in his erroneous belief is that the very quasi-publicness of apartment, and not the illusory private quality, attracts Lily who fiercely resists the suffocating isolation of 19th century house that perpetuates the conventional domesticity. Yet, as a woman under severe social constraints in obtaining such liberating living space, Lily faces bigger social danger every time she reaches for it with Selden only aggravating her desperation. Lily’s apparently humble [social-] death points to, rather than a mere failure, the difficulty and intensity contemporary women would have gone through in chasing the freedom promised in the new living space.
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College of Humanities (인문대학)English Language and Literature (영어영문학과)영학논집(English Studies)영학논집(English Studies) No.38 (2018)
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