“Let us look into the house.” Again and again in nineteenth-century accounts of the houses of the poor like George Godwin's London Shadows, writers encourage their readers to step across thresholds, peer around corners, descend or ascend staircases (4). Framed as portals to unfamiliar worlds, these documents demand dynamic engagement. Look! See for yourself! (Seeing is believing.) Feel the cold air that rushes through dilapidated walls and smell the offensive sludge that oozes through the floors. Count the staggering number of human beings who live in this space and note the absence of furnishings. The urgency of these directions in the narration is tied to another demand for action: having imaginatively constructed such distressing houses, naturally the reader will be moved to work to eradicate their existence in the real world and to find new solutions for housing the poor.

But what...

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