The Strait Gate


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Thresholds and Power in Western History

Daniel Jütte

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A prize-winning scholar offers a sweeping exploration of the role doors have played in history

Exploring a chapter not yet probed in the cultural history of the West, The Strait Gate demonstrates how doors, gates, and related technologies such as the key and the lock have shaped the way we perceive and navigate the domestic and urban spaces that surround us in our everyday lives. Jütte reveals how doors have served as sites of power, exclusion, and inclusion—and, by extension, as metaphors for salvation—in the course of Western history.
This book makes it clear that doors, more than any other parts of the house, are the objects onto which we project our ideas of and anxieties about security, privacy, and shelter. Without doors, of course, houses could not exist. But even though we each walk through doorways well over a hundred times a day, we typically pay little attention to the doors we encounter. We regard them simply as a means of entering or leaving a building or room. Yet when our doors stop working as they should—when we find that we cannot lock or open them, for instance—we react with discomfort and anxiety.
Drawing on a wide range of archival, literary, and visual sources, as well as on research literature across various disciplines and languages, Jütte pays particular attention to the history of the practices that have developed over the centuries in order to handle and control doors in everyday life.

Daniel Jütte is a historian of early modern and modern European history. He is a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows and a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin. He lives in Cambridge, MA.

“An engrossing and powerfully illuminating history of our most intimate surroundings.”—Joseph Koerner, Harvard University

“A wide-open book, erudite, deep, nimble, graceful and fun.”—Thomas V. Cohen, York University

“This is a splendid work of cultural history.  By examining the vast array of overt and hidden meanings that came to be attached to doors in early modern Europe, the author provides an enticing gateway to a rarely considered aspect of pre-modern life.”—Christopher R. Friedrichs, University of British Columbia

“The Strait Gate constitutes an important contribution to cultural history, illuminating our understanding of the early modern world. Its well-chosen illustrations provide apt support for the text.”—Jill Steward, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Overall . . . The Strait Gate can be warmly recommended, both as a survey of an original topic in its own right and as a thought-provoking example of the new cultural history more generally.”—Beat Kümin, Renaissance Quarterly

“. . . lively and readable.”—B. Ann Tlusty, Journal of Urban History

"Jutte’s compact but thorough examination of the power of doors and thresholds in western history . . . lead[s] us beyond his topic and spur thinking about the human experience."—Tony Schwab, Journal of the Historical Association
ISBN: 9780300211085
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
384 pages, 5.5 x 8.25
37 b/w illus.
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