This page is the index and guide for the interdisciplinary seminar hosted by the Department of Architecture, SALA, Penn State University. The seminar will take up the topic of the 'uncanny place', beginning with a review of the primary documents of Freud, Lacan, Dolar, Zizek, and others, which define the phenomenon of the uncanny and place it within the intellectual history of the Twentieth Century.
For Graduate and Advanced Students in
Architecture & Landscape Architecture
Visual Arts, Art Education, Art History
Critical Theory in any humanities field
Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958), showing Scottie observing Madeleine in a flower shop
The seminar holds that all theory is grounded in theory of place. Place is the 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 ancient cultural practices to modern critical theory dealing with subjectivity. Continuity of practices can be revealed by developing diagrams that show the role of key operators: anamorphosis, metalepsis, analepsis, metonymy, chiasmus — terms drawn from the visual arts, rhetoric, and magic that show how the unconscious operates in the background to automate our key desires. Shadows (skiagraphy), chiaroscuro, and double framing (encadrement) unite the visual uncanny with its counterparts in landscape, architecture, literature, and poetry. The seminar studies 20 basic films, precipitates 40 main ideas, and articulates four architectures characteristic of all cultures and periods of history. The point is not to produce “master categories” but to show how architecture and the other arts are “performative” in their ability to create new conditions and objects out of thin air. Thus, this seminar could be useful to anyone studying culture, consumerism, place, imagination, popular culture, cuisine, and critical theory.
The seminar requires no prior familiarity with the fundamental sources, but curiosity, speculation, and the ability to tolerate wild thoughts will be essential. Participants are required to formalize their views through essays or projects. At least 50% of the assignments will be assessed as writing.
Recommended reading in preparation for the seminar: Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject, Hal Foster, Return of the Real, Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry.