Dress-code: Gender performance and misbehavior in the manor

Gale Owen-Crocker, Katarina Bonnevier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


This article is a queer reading of the architecture of Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf's mansion Mårbacka. Through a combination of performativity theory and architecture theory, the article addresses social and historical constructions of gender and sexuality, complicit with the entities age, class and nationality, through architecture. Architecture is explored 'on the one hand' as a representation of social norms and 'on the other hand' as a practice which can subvert them. Departing from a performative perspective on identity, the term cross-cladding is introduced as a tool to interpret architecture as dressing and thereby its complex, layered and manifold performances of gender and sexualities. The article writes a social and architectural history of what has been called 'the most famous manor in Sweden and of Swedish manors the most famous in the world' (Sterner 1935, 4). Mårbacka was not simply the home of Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) and her kin but also a public display of this Nobel Prize-winning first woman of the Swedish Academy - a national monument. Lagerlöf continuously worked on the main building. In 1919-1924, it was transformed with the help of the architects' office of Isak Gustaf Clason. It also appears in Lagerlöf's novels and throughout the building there are references to her books and biography. There is something queer here. The master of Mårbacka was a woman who loved women and made room for a household of women. This article discusses how architecture can represent a gendered disguise and reveals Mårbacka as an excessive, patriarchal 'power suit', which enabled a lifestyle that deviated from the norms of society. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender, Place and Culture|Gender Place Cult.
Place of PublicationLeiden and Boston
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • architecture
  • camp
  • cladding
  • drag
  • manor house
  • performativity
  • queer


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