Against Nature
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Level: Graduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Art and Design History and Theory
Department: Art and Design History
Course Number: PGHT 5710
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
We often think of “modernism” as a visual style exemplified by design of the 1920s. This course challenges this limited view by proposing the nineteenth century as a time when new materials, technologies, and forms were adopted and adapted to define the experience of modernity. Developing its theme from Joris-Karl Huysmans’s 1884 novel Against Nature, in which an aristocratic aesthete withdraws from public life to design an artificial retreat, the course invites students to explore modernism as a nineteenth-century construction, with special emphasis on the interaction of nature and artifice in design. Like the nineteenth century’s iron-and-glass greenhouse, which superseded Nature’s laws, the nineteenth-century home became – with the help of new products and ideas – a controlled interior that rivaled the outer world. Focusing on developments in Britain, France, and Germany, this course considers modernism not as a specific “look,” but as a network of new formal and ideological possibilities.
Course Open to: Majors Only
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All university graduate degree students.


Open to Graduate students.