Tuesday, 31 May 2011

"Confessions of an Agoraphobic Victim"

(Ordinary People, 1980)

"I am now in mid-life and I have not seen a well day since I was about twelve years of age. Before I experienced any of the symptoms of agoraphobia I recall that a strange affliction came over me, an affliction that seemed to baffle the country doctors who were consulted. I was taken suddenly with 'spells' which lasted about thirty minutes. During these attacks I was entirely conscious and rational. As I remember the affliction, a sort of chill came over me-not like an ordinary chill, but a sort of 'coldness' that produced a very unusual sensation, or perhaps, a lack of sensation would describe it more accurately.

Later, perhaps a year or so, I commenced having a dread of wide fields, especially when the fields consisted of pasture land and were level, with the grass cropped short like the grass on a well-kept lawn. I likewise commenced to dread high things, and especially to ascend anything high. I even had a fear of crowds of people, and later of wide streets and parks.

I have outgrown the fear of crowds largely, but an immense building or a high rocky bluff fills me with dread. However the architecture of the building has much to do with the sort of sensation produced. Ugly architecture greatly intensifies the fear.

It is not pain that I feel, but it seems to me that it is more than a dread. I am not nervous, as some people whom I know -I mean in the same way, but it certainly is a case of 'nerves.' Let me illustrate:- I enter a home and sit in an arm-chair chatting with my friend; I soon find myself gripping the arm of the chair with each hand. My toes curl in my shoes, and there is a sort of tenseness all over my muscles.

Usually I feel better in the evening than in the morning, partly because the darkness seems to have a quieting effect upon me. I love a snow storm a regular blizzard, and feel much less discomfort in going about the town or riding on a train on such days, probably because one's view is obstructed. In fact I welcome stormy days, strange to say, with a zest that is hard to appreciate; in short, some of the most stormy days of the hard winters of this region stand out as bright spots in my life. On such days I make it a point to be out and about the town.

When I think of the agony which I have experienced for many years I am astounded at the endurance of the human spirit. Let me illustrate:- I have such a dread of crossing a long bridge on foot that it would require more courage for me to walk to the part of my town situated across the river than it would to face a nest of Boche machine guns. And yet day after day, month after month, and year after year I have carried in my soul the dread of such an eventuality.

I see a man hobbling past my house on crutches, a cripple for life, and I actually envy him. At times I would gladly exchange places with the humblest day laborer who walks unafraid across the public square or saunters tranquilly over the viaduct on his way home after the day's work."
From "Confessions of an Agoraphobic Victim" by "Vincent" (1919)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Far From Home

Another life takes place; it is spread unevenly across the land. I experience the world move from place to place, with each movement in space anchored by the invisible boundaries binding me to a homeworld. I move through the world, crossing the terrain of different environments. At times, this anchor reaches a threshold, at which point the human body comports itself in the world differently. Suddenly, the body cease to belong to the world and instead experiences itself as a zero gravity plot of materiality with no discernable sense of orientation. To be far from home. What this does not mean is to be far from the nest, womb, or sanctuary. To be far from home one need not even travel beyond the home. The nocturnal murmuring of some homeward displacement begins in the very midst of an already established placement in the home. The home grips the body, and in return, the body opens itself up to the dense materiality structuring the walls, ceilings, and floorboards, all of which constitute the physical space termed “home.” The body is dizzy in the human home. A human subject must grip the walls of the home in order to move from one room to another. Another life takes place in the basement, still another in the dinning room. There is no reconciliation between these rooms; they are cast into an anonymous world with no relation between them. Frozen, the human body stands between a series of rooms, caught in a fractured limbo, and thus finding reprieve only in the ambiguous space that separates one room from another.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Announcing: The Memory of Place: a Phenomenology of the Uncanny

I’m pleased to say that The Memory of Place is now available for pre-order for publication in January 2012 through Ohio University Press. The suitably desolate painting used as a cover image comes courtesy of Christopher Saunders. Expect further marketing posts in the months to follow. In the meantime, here's the book’s blurb and an endorsement from Edward Casey.

From the frozen landscapes of the Antarctic to the haunted houses of childhood, the memory of places we experience is fundamental to a sense of self. Drawing on influences as diverse as Merleau-Ponty, Freud, and J. G. Ballard, The Memory of Place charts the memorial landscape that is written into the body and its experience of the world. Dylan Trigg’s The Memory of Place offers a lively and original intervention into contemporary debates within “place studies,” an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of philosophy, geography, architecture, urban design, and environmental studies. Through a series of provocative investigations, Trigg analyzes monuments in the representation of public memory; “transitional” contexts, such as airports and highway rest stops; and the “ruins” of both memory and place in sites such as Auschwitz. While developing these original analyses, Trigg engages in thoughtful and innovative ways with the philosophical and literary tradition, from Gaston Bachelard to Pierre Nora, H. P. Lovecraft to Martin Heidegger. Breathing a strange new life into phenomenology, The Memory of Place argues that the eerie disquiet of the uncanny is at the core of the remembering body, and thus of ourselves. The result is a compelling and novel rethinking of memory and place that should spark new conversations across the field of place studies.

Edward S. Casey, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University and widely recognized as the leading scholar on phenomenology of place, calls The Memory of Place “genuinely unique and a signal addition to phenomenological literature. It fills a significant gap, and it does so with eloquence and force.” He predicts that Trigg’s book will be “immediately recognized as a major original work in phenomenology.”