Published in DASH #11 – Interiors on Display
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Notes on Hannah Arendt and the Private Realm

In her novel The Fountainhead (1943), American author and philosopher Ayn Rand describes an interior within the first four pages: the student room of her protagonist, architect Howard Roark. This early introduction of an interior is an indication of its importance, in novels as much as in daily life. A previously unfamiliar interior can tell us a great deal about its occupant, and not just the obvious things like the style of furniture he or she has chosen (from IKEA or Milan) or what books are displayed in the bookcase (if there is a bookcase at all). It also reveals something about the life being lived there. And an interior also poses a challenge: it invites the visitor to relate to the occupant, precisely because it is an everyday and in some sense a shared environment, which evokes either recognition or alienation.

Rand uses the interior as a mechanism with which to shed light on her protagonist’s character. The novel opens just after Roark has been suspended from his architecture degree. His landlady is waiting for him in front of her house…