viernes, enero 23, 2009

Comments on Heidegger, Bachelard and Cassey.

Week 3
• Heidegger, Martin 1971 Poetry, Language, Thought. Albert Hofstadter, trans. New York: Harper. Chapter IV: Building Dwelling Thinking (pp. 143-159).

• Casey, Edward 1996 How to Get from Space to Place in a Fairly Short Stretch of Time: Phenomenological Prolegomena. In Steven Feld and Keith Basso, eds. Senses of Place. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press (pp. 13-52).

• Bachelard, Gaston 1994 [1958] The Poetics of Space. Maria Jolas, trans. Boston: Beacon Press. Chapter 1: The House. From Cellar to Garret. The Significance of the Hut (pp. 3-37).

Common reflections
The main point of the reading of this week, the phenomenological approach, is to put experience at the center of the analysis. In three texts the authors are debating with positivist and objectivist perspective of space that see it as absolute and empty. Space is not given or neutral, something that will be filled with culture. For these authors experience comes first, the being in the world, the dwelling is the primary source of knowledge. For the three authors place comes first and then space. For Heidegger, our experience of being mortals, our physical body in which we live comes first, its experience and perceptions and sensations then create the abstractions and racionalization of that experience as an objectified and out-there space. Not the other way around. It is precisely because we are dwellers, that we inhabit our houses and buildings, and the natural environment.
But what is to dwell? How buildings belong to dwelling? According to Heidegger the old English and High German word for building, buan, means to dwell, to remain, to stay in a place. To be a human being means to be on the earth as a mortal, it means to dwell and building can be seen as cultivating. One could argue that buildings and humans are constantly building themselves in a sense of inhabiting new forms and experiences (only if we take a poetic license to say that buildings are non-humans agent that have experience).
In Bachelard’s case his approach to how people experience inhabiting a (private) house takes a more psychoanalytical stand and a more poetic style. He wants to understand or better say evoke people’s experience when dwelling and inhabiting their own houses, although he seems to be talking about a mythical house. He brings into analysis a vertical approach to the experience of dwelling when he focuses in the attic and the cellar. He represents the cellar as the unconscious zone of the house, one that is always in the shadow, and the attic as the clear zone in which children play. There is a tension in his article in how places inside the space of the house reverberate in different ways and so construct different experience to the people inhabiting those places. Places through daydreaming (a sort of imagination) are also connected with memory, nostalgia and past experiences (especially early childhood experiences). But basically in Bachelard there is a distinction between the outside (public) and the house (private), between an exteriority and the feeling of intimacy and refuge.
Cassey, with his phenomological approach, is criticizing the modern view of space as absolute, epmty and infinite where places were only partitions of space. For Cassey, “Both sensations and spaces are themselves emplaced from the very first moment, and a very subsequent moment as well” (18), and he is very clear when he says, “we are not only in places but of them” (19).
I think what we can take from these readings is the necessity to place the body/subject as the perceiver, dweller, performer, actor that mediates between places and spaces. The lived body is the one that is emplaced and who experience space.

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