We'll see if any of these discrete fragments can come together to form any sort of coherent message.
Closing thoughts, eh? We'll see if any of these discrete fragments can come together to form any sort of coherent message. Personally, I'm not hopeful, but such is the nature of these things.
A sense of place. The genius loci. At the beginning of the course I was deeply suspicious of these concepts. They are romantic concepts, o be sure, in both the positive and critical senses of the word, and a the whole exercise can seem to be imbibed with a sort of mysticism. It sounded deeply Platonic or Aristotelian; either being about an unchanging ideal accessible only to the rarefied observer, or some level of invisible, only quasi-physical emanation, a form of the "truth" that was closer, in the grand scheme, to the prime mover (read: God) then the bastardized rendition of reality our senses provide us. None of these concepts, for me, are philosophically comfortable; the romantic, Platonic, and Aristotelean views all lay claim to being solely and objectively true whilst appealing to non-perceivable, non-falsifiable entities. It isn't that these approaches have no wisdom, but each is troublesome in their own right, particularly given the panoply of potentially incorrect assumptions that drive them. But more to the point, a purely historical and theoretical approach has, in my own work, given a deeper and more convincing, not to mention more nuanced and complex, view of human spaces, urban ones in particular.
At the same time one would be crazy not to realize our own process of recognition of spaces and our relations to them. One could blindfold us and drop us in the center of Greenwich Village and, once the blindfold was removed, we would immediately recognize where we were and the qualities of the place. The same can be true of other places: Midtown, a mall (we may not recognize the specific one, but we recognize the place in general), the delicate streets surrounding Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, or the wastelands of large swaths of Houston or Dallas. We have an intuitive ability to read these places, and moreover, the argument that some have meaning more fixed and more important than the sum of their parts can at times feel self-evident. At others, it can seem an ephemeral, evanescent fiction.
I would love to claim that somehow I've come fully around in my perception of the senses of place, but that would be at best an overstatement and at worst a lie. I am still deeply suspicious of the very concept, at least in its most mystical and most immutable guises. The more straightforward, academic approach seemed like it could give more substance, but alas that too was problematic. Tuan, while he has moments of brilliant thought and insight, seems pathologically unable to write a straightforward thought or make a consistent, cogent argument. Jackson badly needs an introduction, one would have hope from himself, to outline his assumptions and intellectual methodology, no matter how loose it may have been. But I won't go through our authors one by one, except to state that the works which did not implicitly or explicitly claim to be more than are were by far the most satisfying and, perhaps counterintuitively, the deepest. Sometimes the works seemed like they required the approach of a literary scholar, to read in ideas of themes and word choice and to find meaning that should, by my own account, be more accessible and less obscurantist. But such, it seems, is the nature of the field.
There is some cosmic irony in this class having taken place in the room where it did. Once could not select a space more the polar opposite for a Gallatin class; not only was it rigidly arranged for one-way lectures, it was in what is by far the most dehumanizing building at NYU (and given some of the university's architecture, that is saying something). It is remarkable that the class went as well as it did given the constraints of the space. Still, it certainly worked to kill true discussion. Not only was it impossible to see fellow students, but one also wonders if the nature of the room meant we spent more time being lectured to or watching videos and the like then we might have otherwise.
In conclusion, I have no conclusions. I a not one to sum up a class experience in a sentence or two. I am only left to wonder how the class would have been different in a different space (to be blnt, I think it was a mistake not to move to 194 Mercer; not a perfect building by any means but a far nicer space that could also be arranged for conversation). It is also a shame so few true conversations were started on the website, but partly that is a function of making such comments mandatory, of turning it into classwork. Still, without that impetus, there would in all likelyhood have been far less commenting, so in that regard I have no answer.
In short, the end of a class is always a melancholy time, and this one is most certainly no exception. I now not how to end this except to say that I will miss the discussions and thought provoking nature of the course and the students. So, indeed, I will say it. And say it, I have
Or something like that.