PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY:DEFINITIONS.BY STEVEN BENSON

1.The landscape, urban or rural or subtopian, reflects/mirrors back the INTERNAL psychology/mood of the perceiver’s mind; and the landscape/geography is RECEIVED as a PHYSICAL manifestation or symbol of the internal psyche(something like the “pathetic fallacy”, whereby, for example, descriptions of tempestuous nature/landscapes mirrored the torment of the author’s/narrator’s tortured mind: obvious examples being Gothic , from the 18th century onwards:stagnant lakes, fissured houses). Or,urban decay, could be a metaphor for/symbol of human bodily decay/death: so the body is enscribed or sublimated onto/into a ruined or desuetudinous building: this can even be SUBconscious sublimation: eg I was obsessed with the decline of the Lewis’s department store whilst perhaps vaguely discerning my mum had an undiagnosed illness. So make up your own minds on this(and other) posts , from 2010, a year after she diedhttps://decayetude.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/desuetudeimages-and-text-on-decay-and-memory-inspired-by-sebald-and-the-death-of-a-department-store/ and the year the store closed

2.The dialectic-between the thesis of the physicalness/materiality of geography/landscapes/buildings and its antithesis, the psychological (sometimes sublimated) resonances and its synthesis in the writings of Sebald(but see below) and , for example, De Quincey,where the two mirror each other, as in 1. above:- this dialectic is undercut by Sebald again, who writes of a sort of transcendental/meta psychogeography: for instance the scene on Dunwich Heath in “Rings of saturn” where the sebaldian narrator relates that he experiences a “tear”(in sense of gap) in the material landscape, a kind of uncanny sense of not being(fully) there which pervades the narrator’s mood through out the book, and could be explained away as either psychological depersonalisation, (psychiatricized) “anxiety”; or, as  an awareness that this landscape of remote Suffolk is echoing back an area BEYOND geographical space or, indeed physical time. Sebald is pyschogeograhy at its most advanced and complex and labarynthine: the material world is utilised for transformation into internal psychology/emotions but also for this nebulous transcendental purpose(Merlin Coverley’s otherwise excellent but slightly reductive book “Psychgeography”,2010, shockingly, fails to even mention Sebald ONCE!). Not that Sebald is MERELY a (transcendental) psychogeographer!

3.The flaneur(as psychogeographer). A faneur is an urban wanderer, strolling, drifting through urban(usually) landscapes with no SET purpose; and I say “set” advisedly because he has a purpose of his own(as I shall explore!). He usually tries to uncover the byeways of urban geography: closed down cafes, department stores, or odd neglected side streets, for instance. Coverley nominates de Quincey as the first flaneur.There is even a site on the web dedicated to the psychogeography of the cafehttp://www.classiccafes.co.uk/Psy.html. You can even have a hyperflaneur, which rings true, if we think of “googling” the net randomly but simultaneously purposefully, following link upon link and seeing where they take us. In fact, this relates to the dual purposiveness that the flaneur represents; he both drifts purposelessly, seeing what he HAPPENs upon; but he also may have a purpose, sometimes hidden to himself(see point 1 above); which leads me to:

4. Walter Benjamin. He did have an (explicit) purpose: to seek out the quirky and “redundant” bye-products and remnants of capitalism, famously in “The Arcades Project”, his massive, unfinished, inter-textual tome where he uses citationality to describe the role of the flaneur(there are only a relatively few of his own comments in the book); it is about the haussmanization of Paris, which destroyed the old covered shopping arcades , where you could stroll freely, and wherby many streets where made into standardised characterless boulevards: cf. Lewis’s with Liverpool One(though I am quite fond of the latter’s slightly subtopian psychogeography).There is a link here with hauntology, in its Derridean sense(” Spectres of Marx,1994) of the fact that the collapse of the bastardised, corrupt Marxism, that existed in 1989,has meant that there is ghost of Marx(in his true unadulterated meanings)waiting to be re-animated, in some kind of building onto Dubcekian or Gorbachevian revisionist marxism an alternative new vision of how to work society outside the narrow, failing confines of command economy communism and of western capitalism. This is because Benjamin believed very much in salvaging, literally/physically, the remains of failed capitalist enterprises, by “capturing” them in written form; but also, transcendentally, salvaging them, in an attempted redemption over time.

5. The Lettrists, then the Situationists(most prominently in the figure of Guy Debord, who called the putatively “aimless” urban flaneurie or drifting the “derive”, which is roughly translated AS drifting)added another radical political edge to their urban drifting/exploration/flaneurie. I will write more on this when I have explored it more!

6.Spectral (psycho)geography:Sebald said “they are forever returning to us the dead”.Eg haunting in its more widespread sense. Eg, the Liverpool urban myth of people in Victorian dress being “seen” in 20th century Liverpool Bold Street and the ground falling away to reveal a hidden subterranean world(google this!); taken to its most risible degree in TV “reality” shows of “investigations” into paranormal happenings in haunted, often deserted , buildings. Less literally, spectral geography could cover ALL of Sebald’s massive, decaying buildings, which I have often written about, physically disintegrating architecture/geography, often accompanied by disintegrative mental and spiritual states:cf the ladies waiting room scene in “Austerlitz” and all his vast, already semi-decaying other railway stations, zoos, fortresses; and linked to Santner’s expansion of Freud’s catastrophization theory , whereby these buildings are external emblems/representations of, as I say, inner rootlessness, unresolved issues of identity(eg the sexual orienation of many of the sebaldian narrators and characters). this links in with the spectralization of the (homosexual/gay)selfhttp://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/what-is-homospectrality-and-how-to-avoid-itby-steven-benson/ and to a post I shall soon make on  queer/lgbt(psych0) geography

Pripyat and Chernobyl(power plant site and city)are powerful examples of spectral geography, which also link to Benjamin and Debords’ theses of what capitalism or command economy communism , in their need for endless exploitation of the earth’s natural resources(and the concomitant twisting of those resources into , here, atomic,mightily destructive fission as a power source) can lead to. Look at the salutary documentaries and pictures on the internet of these sites, spectral and inhumane beyond words.

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