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Comfort and Judgement

Nineteenth Century Advice Manuals and the Scripting of Australian Identity

Gene Bawden

$34.95

‘My journey to this book is the culmination of a long-held fascination with the history and currency of Australia’s domestic interior. Having been born in a remote, desert-bound Queensland town, I have felt its power as a solace; a retreat from the extremities of the Australian environment. The interior provided a zone in which we were kept safe, but so too were our traditions, behaviours and belief systems. As I sifted through the pages of Australia’s nineteenth-century advice manuals on the subject, featuring caverns of formal furniture suites, patterned carpet, velvet drapes, china cabinets, occasional tables, and collections of ornaments all awkwardly coalescing in spaces impregnated with the acrid waft of furniture polish, I was struck by the continuum of the interior and its purpose; as a refuge to induce both comfort and confidence.’

Since the earliest days of colonisation white Australians have sought solace within the domestic interior. Faced with a disconcerting and entirely alien environment, the replication of English interiors provided the colony’s settler communities with the tether they sought to a guiding homeland and its governing rules of domestic practices. Though Australian identity is aligned, truthfully or otherwise, to the ‘masculine’ exterior – the bush, the outback and the beach – the ‘feminised’ interior provides an alternative site of identity, potentially closer to truth than the heroic fictions of colonial frontier narratives. Comfort and Judgement provides a richer, deeper understanding of the Australian home than has been realised before.

About the Author

Gene Bawden has over twenty-five years’ experience as a communication designer and design academic. He currently leads the Department of Design at Monash University, where he is a passionate advocate of teaching, design thinking and practice-based research. His research interests combine notions of gendered spatial practices with his communication design expertise, to reveal new ways of imagining interiors that are shared and equitable.


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