seminar on place:
arch417 / fall 2010 / Seminar Room SFB/ Tuesday @ 6:30-9:30

 

ARCH 417 BOUNDARY LANGUAGE (3) will examine the social and cultural significance of boundaries from cultural, psychological, historic, literary, and developmental perspectives. Boundaries, intrinsic to human thought and perception, play a topological role in the constructs of space and time that are the basis for human action, thought, and creativity.


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.

The course is designed to serve upper-level undergraduate students with interests in topics in architecture theory that touch on matters of spatial behavior encountered in landscape, geography, topology, semiology, and psychoanalysis; and for graduate students interested in philosophical-critical approaches to spatial perception and behavior. Students should have taken a course from Architecture, Visual Arts, Geography, or Philosophy that introduces some aspect of spatial perception, conception, construction, or visualization, or completed equivalent study independently. It supplements theory, history, and methods courses in Landscape Architecture and Architecture directly, by providing a focus based on phenomena that can be identified directly in student projects as well as historical precedents at all scales. The course deepens theoretical perspectives for any major dealing with the relation of human behavior and the environment. Majors involving creative production of architecture and landscape will benefit by knowledge of the structures that affect perception, appreciation, and construction of buildings and landscapes and their representations. Any major that treats the historical development or media involvement of buildings and landscapes may also benefit. The course is intended to provide upper-level Architecture undergraduates and graduate students with a supplemental theory course that may strengthen their performance in the programs.

WHO? The seminar is directed by Don Kunze, Prof. of Architecture and Integrative Arts at Penn State University.

WHEN? The seminar meets at 6:30-9:30 on Tuesdays in 10 Business Building.

MORE: Refer to the boundary language main web site for resources, guides, book lists, and other information.


sample schedule (the actual schedule will be determined in consultation with seminar members) ...

WEEKS 1 AND 2
UNIT ONE: THE LORE AND ROOTS OF BOUNDARY USE

(1) The course introduces the topic of boundaries through examples drawn from mythic literature. Topics: cosmic divisions in myth; religions/medical functions of boundaries; the Thesean labyrinth; 'between the two deaths' and katabasis; foundation rituals (Romulus and Remus; Fustel de Coulanges); African practices; Chinese urban origins.

(2) Several key story types are examined structurally. Narratives: Pyramus and Thisbe, Narcissus and Echo, Alcestis, Actæon and Diana, Orpheus and Eurydice; Simonides; Zeuxis and Parhassius.

Sources: Arnold Van Gennep, Victor Turner, Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, Cicero, Frances Yates, Ovid, Jacques Lacan, Giulio Camillo. Film: Black Orpheus (1959).

WEEKS 3 AND 4
UNIT TWO: BOUNDARIES IN THE 'DEBATE' BETWEEN POETICS AND REASON

(1) Agutezza (theories of wit) and metaphor in the 16c. become important sources for boundary usage in complex poetic and artistic forms. Topics: Gongorà, Tessauro, Sforza-Pallavicino; Stoic background; Vico's theory of myth; silent speech as gesture, spatial structure, and 'artifact' of language.

(2) Enlightenment optics and epistemology depend on boundaries to define thought in terms of spatial protocols. Topics: panopticism; enclosure (England); urban (dis)order; marginal territories - the wild west, explorers' lore, Jules Verne.

Sources: Ernst Curtius, Ernst Cassirer, Giambattista Vico, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Raymond Williams, Walter Benjamin. Film: Metropolis (1927), High and Low (1963).

WEEKS 5 AND 6
UNIT THREE: BOUNDARIES AS A SYMPTOM OF MODERNITY

(1) Freud articulates the modern condition as one of 'hysteria', which has key relationships to memory, automatism, and boundary behavior. Topics: modernity as hysteria; the uncanny; the emergence of detective fiction. Emergence of topology, nonsense theory, and the fourth dimension.

(2) Photography and the occult emerge simultaneously as counterparts to the rationalization of modern life. Topics: lore of the fourth dimension; time travel; tourism, theology of between-the-two-deaths; parallax; dialectic.

Sources: Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, Anthony Vidler, Edgar Poe, Arthur Conan-Doyle, Linda Henderson. Film: The 39 Steps (1935), Horse Feathers (1932).

WEEKS 7 AND 8
UNIT FOUR: BOUNDARIES, PSYCHO-LINGUISTICS, AND POPULAR CULTURE

(1) Master signification is the metaphoric process of creating durable stereotypes using topological structures. Topics: 'The Purloined Letter', sliding signifiers, idiotic symmetry (Marx Brothers).

(2) Hysteria's relation to memory requires a review of the ancient and Medieval ars memoria. Topics: memory theory (Llull), contingency, automatism, and memory-as-imagination.

Sources: Victor Turner, Ioan Couliano, Ramon Llull, Mladen Dolar, Frances Yates, Donald Verene, Moise Idel. Film: The Double Life of Veronique (1991).

WEEKS 9 AND 10
UNIT FIVE: THE MYSTERY STORY'S ENLIGHTENMENT INHERITANCE

(1) The mystery story embodies the topology of the Möbius-band and its recursive logic. Topics: topologies and acoustics (Chesterton), almost symmetrical structures (Highsmith). The doctrine of the three gazes in film terms.

(2) Projective geometry's legacy is the model of the 'cone of vision', which de-stabilizes the subject and politicizes the world. Topics: empiricism, representation, scale as a ratio of knowledge to truth.

Sources: Chesterton, Highsmith, Woolrich, Van Gennep, Turner, Fustel de Coulanges. Films: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958).

WEEKS 11 AND 12
UNIT SIX: TOPOLOGY OF THE MYSTERY STORY

(1) Topology provides a means of connecting diverse phenomenon in mathematics, cultural studies, physiology, and philosophy. Topics: traumatic space/time, master signification (metaphor) as idiotic symmetry, antinomasia, spherical spatial reference systems. Recursion, short-circuits, harmonics theory, stochastic resonance; the Parthenon.

(2) The mystery story's hysteria returns to the Freudian theme of the Unheimlich. Topics: restoration of the Heimlich. Chaplin, Marx Bros, Begnini, Fellini, Tati. Dark visions: Hitchcock, Lynch, Jarmusch.

Sources: G. K. Chesterton, Patricia Highsmith, Cornell Woolrich. Film: Mulholland Drive (2001).

WEEKS 13 AND 14
UNIT SEVEN: ARCHITECTURE AND LANDSCAPE CASE STUDIES

(1) Narrative spaces in literature and film reveal a topological schemas of recursion, Hegelian dialectic, and short-circuits Topics: Joyce, Schultz, Proust, Mann, Murdoch, Nabokov; chiasmus, idiotic symmetry, short-circuits, and inversion protocols. Utopia theory.

(2) Landscapes and buildings reflect a 'parallax' relationship between desire and demand. Topics: civic landscapes, tourist landscapes, penal landscapes. Brown, Olmsted, Lassus. Piranesi, Soane, Libeskind, Stirlling, Siza, Gehry, Eisenman, Corbusier, Team Ten, Machado, Rossi. Diagrams, topologies, and rhetorical figures.

Sources: James Joyce, Bruno Schulz, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, Iris Murdoch, Vladimir Nabokov, Bernard Tschumi, Bernard Lassus, Frederick Olmsted, John Soane, Daniel Libeskind, Aldo Rossi, Julio Cortazar. Film: Hopscotch (1959).


WEEK 15
UNIT EIGHT: THE ROLE OF THE RHETORICAL FIGURE AS GESTURE
Complex boundary relationships can be identified by traditional rhetorical figures: aposiopoiesis, anamnesis, anacoluthon, antipode, apotrope, automaton, antinomasia, ekphrasis.

Sources: Kenneth Burke, Chiam Perelman, Harold Bloom, Donald Verene, Angus Fletcher. Film: The Passenger (1975).


Academic Integrity: This course follows all policies and guidelines concerning academic integrity. Fundamentally this means that all materials represented as original works are original, and that cited materials are identified as such.

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.