seminar on place:
arch417 / spring 2010

The position of the seminar is that all critical theory is grounded in a theory of place. This theory begins with an idea of “the subjective uncanny,” the subject’s uneasy presence in place, “unsettled” because of the complex structure of desire. Another position of the seminar is that there is a critical path for studying the subjective uncanny — from Plato, then skipping over some two thousand years to the “new science” of Giambattista Vico, thence to Freud, Lacan, and Slavoj Zizek (& Co.). Why this geneology? Only in these central sources is the matter of the subjective uncanny dealt with directly, in visual-narrative ways that can be correlated diagrammatically.

Scottie eyes 'Madeleine' through the mirrored door of a flower shop in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)

The seminar studies 20 “basic” films, formalizes 40 “main” ideas, and articulates four “subject-specific” architectures common to all cultures and periods of history. Nonetheless, it is maintained that each architecture occurs within a “radical historicism” that creates its own “political unconscious” — a term coined by Fredric Jameson to press Marx’s point that there is no subject without the dynamic oppositions created within and by history. These oppositions are maintained by “master signifiers” that constitute an ideological basis for thought, fantasy, and desire. Thus, this seminar could be useful to anyone studying culture, consumerism, place, imagination, popular culture, cuisine, and critical theory. The seminar presumes no prior familiarity with the fundamental sources, but it does demand curiosity, a speculative personality, and the ability to suspend judgment on behalf of the need for a theory of the subject situated simultaneouslyin an “anti-disciplinary” yet scholarly discourse. Participants are required to formalize their views in a written study or project.

INDEX: Four architectures; twenty films; forty ideas; four discourse diagram; Psycho notes; silent middle; studio performance; syllabus; table of four discourses; tuche.

NOTES: 1-introduction, 2-vertigo, 3-name, 4-dead of night, 5-chiaroscuro, 6-rear window, 7-pym, 8-obstructions, encadrement, four discourses diagram, gap between the frames, military labyrinth, motion in poe, the performative, poché, reverse engineering, the silent middle, the "unconscious" of space, the unconscious, Vertigo narrative.

The Boundary Language Project was initially supported by the Vernon Shogren Foundation, Raleigh, NC. Seminars and workshops supported by the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State Alumni and Continuing Education Office, the Department of Architecture, PSU, the School of Architecture and Planning of the University at Buffalo, the Nadine Carter Russell Foundation (LSU), and the Urban Center at Cincinnati.