Taking Place: Rhetoric of Abstract Space and Construction of Literary Architectures Open Access

Goldfarb, Yelizaveta (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/1j92g772f?locale=en


Taking Place: Rhetoric of Abstract Space and Construction of Literary Architectures studies the nature of abstract space through literary modes of analysis. It argues that fields such as mathematics or philosophy, to which we traditionally turn in order to describe abstract space, merely use limited aspects of space to describe other subjects: ontologies, place relations, or social relations. What the dissertation finds is that literature actually has a privileged access to theory of abstract space since literature points to the provisionality of its "real" space and thus always threatens to peel away its fictionality, to deal with abstract space as an exposure. Abstract space is "generally accepted as a cosa mentale, a sort of all-embracing set" (Tschumi). It is difficult to pin down as an object of study since it is omnipresent and cannot be observed at a distance. Because of this difficulty, thinkers have needed to describe abstract space obliquely, and so they have always relied on rhetorical moves and figural representations in order to write about it. These texts range across varied Humanities fields: philosophy, mathematics, literature, cinema, semiotics, and visual art. The dissertation finds that although the terms change by fields, each discipline is interested in the same problem: How are we to place bounds of definition on a category which is by nature unbounded? Rather than approach abstract space by artificially bounding its unbounded shape, which is the tendency of mathematics and philosophy, this dissertation's approach preserves its manipulating, scattering, disorienting power. It focuses on the underlying forms of spatiality: empty space, infinity, and virtual space. And it examines abstract space through architects and artists who set this focus as their goal also (Le Corbusier, Mies, Sitte, Vertov, Tarkovsky, Chekhov, Whitman, Kafka, Baudelaire, Nabokov). The narrative trajectory through these architects and artists moves from attempts to configure space to attempts to represent space to attempts to master space. In this way, the dissertation uses manageable aspects of abstract space in order to piece together a more comprehensive understanding of the effects, movements, and power of abstract space that does justice to its disorienting and slippery qualities.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction. 1

II. Agoraphobia and Architectural Cures. 12

Mobility and non-Euclidean space

Kafka's spatial obstacles

Gardens and transparency

III. Framing Infinity. 50

Aristotle's "potential infinity"

Iteration in Chekhov

Tableaux vivants in Tarkovsky

IV. Folding Space. 103

Mies's photomontage

Virtual agora

Vertov's A Sixth Part of the World

Whitman's influence

V. Decomposition and Ruin Lust. 155

Vitruvian bodies


Speer's Ruinenwerttheorie

Irony in Nabokov

VI. Conclusion. 214

Bibliography. 216

Non-printed Sources. 226

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