Living Stones: The House as Actor in Early Modern Europe

Daniel Jütte

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    This article investigates the metaphor of the "living house" and its concrete ramifications on everyday life in late medieval and early modern Europe. For premodern Europeans, the house was an actor that occupied an important and natural role in their social life and in the urban space in which they lived. Human attributes were explicitly assigned to the house: it had a name and life story, displayed bodily features, and was invested with a specific individuality. This article examines the historical origins of this metaphor and why it became particularly powerful in the early modern period. The author then surveys the various expressions of the anthropomorphic understanding of the house, as reflected both in the architectural theory and the popular discourse of the time. The final part addresses the question of why and when this notion of the house as actor began to decline.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)659-687
    Number of pages29
    JournalJournal of Urban History
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


    • cultural history
    • early modern history
    • urban history

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Urban Studies


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