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Gaston Bachelard’s Topoanalysis in the 21st Century: The Lived Reciprocity between Houses and Inhabitants as Portrayed by American Writer Louis Bromfield
David Seamon email@example.com www.arch.ksu.edu/seamon/
This article contributes to phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard’s call for topoanalysis by examining houses and inhabitation depicted in two works by American writer Louis Bromfield (1896-1956). The first work considered is “The Hands of God,” a 1939 short story that recounts the defilement of a 300year-old Basque farmhouse. The second work considered is Bromfield’s last novel, the 1951 Mr. Smith, which depicts the unraveling, pre-World-War-II home life of Wolcott Ferris, a conventional Midwestern, middle-class husband and father. These two works demonstrate how, regularly in his creative efforts, Bromfield depicted a lived reciprocity whereby house and inhabitants mutually sustain and reflect each other, sometimes in positive ways that facilitate engagement and care; at other times, in negative ways that intimate or spur personal or social dissolution. The article concludes by considering implications for phenomenological research on houses and homes in the 21st century. The argument is made that, on one hand, inhabitation involves a lived whole unified by its total character. On the other hand, inhabitation involves a lived dialectic founded in a twofold significance involving internal diversity versus external connectedness. In both these inner and outer relationships, there are “sustaining” and “undermining” situations—e.g., the home as a place of comfort and regeneration versus the home as a place of unease, vulnerability, or conflict. Most broadly, the perspective argued for here looks inward toward the uniqueness of particular homes and inhabitations but also recognizes that they are integrally related outwardly to the world beyond, including other places, the broader societal context, and global interconnectedness.
In his Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard used an approach he called topoanalysis—“the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives” (Bachelard 1964, p. 8).1 This article contributes to topoanalysis by examining homes and inhabitation portrayed by the American novelist and agricultural writer Louis Bromfield (1896-1956). Though relatively unknown today, Bromfield was regarded in the 1920s as one of America’s most promising young writers (Anderson 1964; Scott 1998). In 1939 at the age of forty-two, Bromfield ended a fourteen-year sojourn in France and, with his family, returned to his native rural Ohio to start one of America’s most significant 20th-century agricultural and ecological experiments: Malabar Farm, a 1,000-acre property in east-central Ohio. Here, Bromfield demonstrated that eroded and exhausted farmland could again be made productive, mostly through topsoil restoration (Anderson 1997, 1999; Beeman 1993; Beeman & Pritchard 2001, pp. 49-53; Bromfield 1945, 1948, 1950, 1955a, 19955b; Bromfield Geld 1962; Fleming 2006; Little 1988; Lord 1961; Nelson 2001; Nelson 2005; Seamon 2008). The considerable amount of time, attention, and money that Bromfield lavished on Malabar Farm and the construction of a large dwelling there that he called the “Big House” intimates a pivotal theme in
his life and writings: The lived relationship between human beings and the world in which they find themselves. One way Bromfield explored this relationship was in accounts of the interconnections between houses and their inhabitants. On one hand, he suggested that the particular character of inhabitants affords a particular ambience evoked by their home: There is a kind of aura about every house I have ever entered, so strong that I believe I could tell you a great deal about the owners after ten minutes spent within the walls—whether the wife was dominant, whether the family was happy or unhappy, and almost exactly the degree of education and culture and knowledge of the person who built and furnished and lived in it” (Bromfield 1945, p. 73). On the other hand, though the character and quality of the inhabitants shape their house, the house contributes to the character, experience, and world of the inhabitants, partly through its nature as a physical thing and partly through the history of earlier inhabitants who found comfort or discomfort there: Houses affect the lives and the character and happiness of people who live in them as much as all these things affect the houses themselves. I know of houses which have caused divorces and deformed the lives of children growing up in them, because they were badly planned for the personalities of the people who have occupied them. I know that almost any reader who has lived in many houses has had the experience of hating certain houses, partly because of the aura left by predecessors and partly because of the stupidity or harshness of the house itself (ibid., pp. 74-75).
A Basque Farmhouse
One of Bromfield’s most encompassing portrayals of the lived reciprocity between house and inhabitants is his 1939 short story, “The Hand of God,” in which an American narrator, living winters in France and, in many ways, Bromfield himself, documents the defilement of a graceful Basque farmhouse overlooking the tiny fishing village of Salasso on northeastern Spain’s Bay of Biscay, just a short distance from the French border (Bromfield 1939, pp. 224-56). Eventually, the farmhouse is desecrated and destroyed by people who, for Bromfield, represent the very worst of human nature. Hidden by a hollow on a moor above the bay, the house is protected and solitary, making “a world of its own, high above the sea with the walls of mountains sheltering it from unfriendly north winds” (ibid., 224). Built in the vernacular style of the region, the house has a low, sweeping roof of red tiles, plastered walls, and large windows with shutters opening to balconies with flower boxes of petunias, climbing geraniums, and convolvulus. On the second floor is a “marvelous big room” where the narrator dines and sits over evening coffee, enjoying the views of sea and mountains. Early on in the story, the narrator describes the spontaneous sense of contentment, pleasure, and ease he feels when he first discovers the house one day accidentally as he walks his dogs on the moor above the sea. He notices a “low friendly hedge” enclosing a large garden in the midst of which is a small farmhouse “close to the earth, bound to it by bonds of clematis and roses and the lovely sky-blue morning glory…” (ibid., p. 225). The narrator had been searching for a house near the sea to rent for the summer, and, the moment he sees the farmhouse, he knows it had been lived in by people who love it. Happily, he thinks, “This is my house. I am the successor to the man who loved it” (ibid., p. 226). The narrator remembers earlier
houses in which he had planned to spend just a season but then lived there for years “because there was something… which I had been seeking, sometimes without knowing it at all” (ibid., p. 224). For the narrator, this “something” is peace, which, of all things in life, he believes, is the most difficult to find: “one needs peace to return to. One knows at once when there is peace in a house” (ibid.). The narrator immediately recognizes that the Basque farmhouse has “peace and dignity and beauty and age” (ibid., p. 225). All houses have personalities, and the quality of peace is central to the Basque farmhouse’s: There are houses which are cold and empty, houses which are malicious, others which are friendly, others dignified, and some, perhaps the best of all, are disheveled and merry…. The moment you came into [the Basque farmhouse], out of the hot sunshine into the cool of its big tiled entrance hall, you were aware of its personality, and the longer you stayed there, the more you knew that this was a house in which charming people had lived, people who were simple and knew the things in life which had value and those which had not (ibid., pp. 226-27).
“A Place which Grows about the Heart”
Why does this particular house have such a powerful ambience? Partly its presence is strong, says the narrator, because the house is very old and the home place of generation after generation of Basques who “had gone off to places like Brooklyn and Buenos Ayres to make their fortunes and to return at last to die between the mountains and the sea” (ibid., p. 225). Most recently, the house had been owned by Monsieur André, who loved and cared for the house until he died, leaving the dwelling to his widow, who would rent but not sell the property because she wished to return to the house to die. “It is a place,” she writes to the narrator, “which grows about the heart” (ibid., p. 226). When the narrator first moves into the house with his wife and children, the villagers of Salasso distrust him because they fear he will change the old house and desecrate Monsieur André’s memory. By the end of the second summer, however, the villagers become friendly, recognizing that the narrator has “changed nothing, only striving to keep the place as it had always been….” (ibid.). From the villagers, the narrator learns about Monsieur André—how he had arrived forty years before to buy the farmhouse from a Basque family who had lived there since the dwelling was built in 1657. Monsieur André had changed nothing, and that, said the villagers, “was right. Monsieur André belonged there. He had the feeling of the place. God looks after such things” (ibid., p. 227). Over time, as the narrator comes to feel a deeper and deeper attachment for the house and its garden, he senses the invisible presence of Monsieur André: “I knew that he was there beside me enjoying the peace, drinking it in, savoring it, as I was doing.” (ibid., p. 230). The narrator emphasizes that this presence is not some fantastical conjuring of ghosts, in which he does “not believe or disbelieve” (ibid.). Rather, he suggests that past and present love of place interpenetrates, through an ineffable realm that is real experientially. He speaks of his strong faith “in the presence of the past and the sense of being and continuity which lies in old houses and gardens” (ibid.). The gratitude of place, in being cared for, gives thanks through the “friendly presence” of earlier caretakers: “Perhaps it was that in that corner, so ancient and undefiled and full of peace, the presence found it simple and easy to speak to me. Perhaps it knew that I was grateful” (ibid.). The manner of relationship that the narrator and Monsieur André have with the Basque farmhouse is further clarified through a contrast with another of the story’s characters—the narrator’s friend
Dalambure, a journalist who writes “bitter books and inflammatory articles for the Paris newspapers” (ibid., p. 231). Though born in a village near Salasso, the journalist is said by the narrator to have “never properly belonged” (ibid.). Dalambure suffers from “a certain restlessness and discontent”; the narrator is irritated when the journalist visits his Basque farmhouse but seemed “unaware of the beauty and peace of the place” (ibid.). The narrator has little sympathy for Dalambure because he has “little sense of things, and very little sentiment” (ibid., p. 233). Dalambure had no emotional warmth and “almost no sensual contact with life. He was very nearly all brain and so he was always alone” (ibid.). His house is as much a reflection of himself as the Basque farmhouse is a reflection of Monsieur André: … a gaunt house, plain and undistinguished, which by accident had a picturesque view of the canal and the harbor, although I am certain Dalambure had never noticed the view and would have been quite as content if there had been only a blank wall opposite him. It was furnished with the necessities of life and nothing in it had any charm or personality…. His concern was wholly with ideas and so to him my obsession with the house of Monsieur André was merely absurd and foolish (ibid.).
A House Desecrated
Having rented the farmhouse for five summers, the narrator and his family must suddenly leave for America, though he hopes in time to return, perhaps purchasing the farmhouse from Monsieur André’s widow. After four years away, the narrator makes plans to return to Salasso and writes Dalambure for news about Monsieur André’s widow and the farmhouse. Dalambure replies that the widow died three years ago and the house has been sold to the Onspenskis, an unscrupulous husband and wife who swindle unsuspecting investors and symbolize, for Bromfield, human beings who are so rapacious and despicable that they coarsen and obliterate everything with which they come in contact. Even though Dalambure warns the narrator that the farmhouse is changed in ways he will not like, he makes an appointment with the Onspenskis, thinking he can buy it back and undo the changes: “The memory of it had grown about my spirit as the old vines had grown over the house” (ibid., p. 232). As he approaches the house on his return, he realizes immediately that “something awful had happened” (ibid., p. 242): “The house was no longer there, or rather the old house had been so changed that it was difficult any longer to recognize it” (ibid.). The flowering hedge surrounding the farmhouse had been replaced with a high concrete wall that eliminated the garden’s magnificent views of sea, sky, and mountains; shutters, balconies, and flower boxes had been removed; the old plaster walls had been violated “with wide sheets of glass and harsh window frames of steel”; the orchard and kitchen garden had been destroyed, replaced by an “ugly red tennis court” (ibid., p. 243). Worst of all, the ugly wall around the garden had destroyed its visual and social links with the immediate vicinity: The garden had degenerated from “an open friendly place from which one might see the heads of one’s neighbors as they passed along the hedge into a prison, barren and bleak” (ibid.). As the narrator leaves, Madame Onspenski asks him how he likes the changes to the house. He looks at her, “wondering that there were people in the world of so little taste and sensibility” and then replies, “Madame, you have murdered a house” (ibid.). After leaving, he walks the moor, thinking of Monsieur André. Dalambure’s old cook, reputed by the villagers to be a witch, has already told the narrator that Monsieur André is no longer happy and that
she has met him at night “wandering in the village” because he is now homeless (ibid., p. 239). The narrator concludes she is probably right, since “his ‘tiny paradise’ [had been] destroyed” (ibid., p. 243). The narrator never returns to the Basque farmhouse, and the rest of Bromfield’s story details the Onspenskis’ exploits and eventual ruin in an insurance scandal that leads to their gruesome deaths. “If they had escaped the Hand of God a dozen times,” explains the narrator, “it had fallen at last with an awful vengeance” (ibid., p. 256). As for the Basque farmhouse, the narrator explains that it had a succession of short-term tenants until it was purchased by a Greek syndicate that converted it into a restaurant and “house of assignation.”
A Topoanalysis of the Basque Farmhouse
How, phenomenologically, might one interpret the lived relationship between inhabitants and houses as portrayed in Bromfield’s short story? A first point is the powerful way in which his account substantiates the dialectical aspect of the relationship: Qualities of inhabitants sustain qualities of house, which in turn sustain qualities of inhabitants. One can apply the phenomenological insight of psychologist Bernd Jager (1985): A house…, when properly inhabited, not merely remains something seen; it itself becomes a source of vision and light according to which we see…. To enter and finally to come to inhabit a house… means to come to assume a certain stance, to surrender to a certain style of acting upon and of experiencing the surrounding world…. (pp. 218-19). The Basque farmhouse, in the very first moments in which the narrator encountered it, instantaneously projected its ambience of serenity and comfort, which the narrator would come to safeguard by taking care of the property and allowing it to remain what it was. Through the narrator’s “surrendering” to the style of being that the presence of the house evoked, he engaged with and so inhabited the house, which became an integral part of his daily life and pleasures. From Jager’s perspective, one could say that the farmhouse became the “source of vision” as inhabitant and house readily fell in synch—an emotional, synergistic conjoining poignantly described by Monsieur André’s widow as “a place which grows around the heart.” If the narrator’s inhabitation of the Basque farmhouse illustrates how this lived reciprocity between inhabitant and house evolved in a positive, sustaining way, the situations of Dalabure and the Onspenskis illustrate how the lived reciprocity can devolve and undermine people and place. Restless, discontented, and dominated by his intellect, Dalabure manifested a stance toward his world that responded through a house that was plain, gaunt, and impersonal. “He never properly belonged,” says the narrator, because Dalabure could not fully engage with his world—unaware, for instance, of the “beauty and peace” of the Basque farmhouse. The most flagrant example of a devolving relationship between inhabitants and house is the insidious Onspenskis, who were not only ignorant of the farmhouse’s uniqueness but transmogrified its grace and beauty into hideousness. Their self-centered, grasping stance toward the world annihilated a place. “You have murdered a house,” the narrator rightly accuses Madame Onspenski. Bromfield’s short story points to another significant aspect of topoanalysis: The lived ways in which physical and built qualities enhance or undermine the inhabitant-house relationship. Bromfield emphasizes that, at least partly, the Basque farmhouse’s uniqueness as a place relates to its built elements—the dwelling’s secluded site; its sheltered placement in relation to north winds; its low,
friendly hedge and comfortable garden supporting neighborly sociability; its large windows with shutters opening to balconies with fine views. These architectural and environmental features contribute to the serenity and enjoyment of the place by affording exhilarating encounters and situations automatically unfolding in and around the house through the taken-for-granted course of everyday life—for example, coming in from the hot sunshine to the cool of the big tiled entrance hall; or lying on the balcony at night, looking up at the stars. The farmhouse’s physical features and accompanying environmental experiences allow the narrator, in Jager’s words, “to surrender to a certain style of acting upon and of experiencing the surrounding world.” The particular environmental and architectural physicality of the place contributes to the narrator’s style of being; his daily life is indebted to the farmhouse because it contributes so much to what that daily life is. The result is a world that is comfortable and gracious architecturally and environmentally. On the other hand, the Onspenskis’ disconnectedness with the farmhouse leads to the inappropriate physical and built changes that unsettle and destroy the singularity of the place: plaster walls replaced by glass sheets; shutters and balconies removed; orchard and garden converted to tennis court; the high concrete wall destroying neighborly contact and garden views. In this situation, the farmhouse can no longer be a “source of vision” because the Onspenskis do not have the organ “to see,” nor do they have the sensibility or refinement to “to surrender” to the place. Their crippling, oafish character rebuffs and suffocates the farmhouse’s hospitable ambience; through their obtuseness and willfulness, they extinguish the magic and wonder of the place.
In his story of the Basque farmhouse, Bromfield illustrates how human beings can appropriate or disappropriate lived qualities of house and home that afford a supportive ambience and sense of place. In other writings, Bromfield explores how lived qualities of house and home can overwhelm human beings and move them into a situation that has sometimes been called, after Freud, the “uncanny”—the unexpected incursion of troubling understandings and encounters that before were out of sight (Freud 1919). The uncanny, says architectural theorist Anthony Vidlar, is “the fundamental propensity of the familiar to turn on its owners, suddenly to become defamiliarized, derealized, as if in a dream” (Vidlar 1992, p. 7; also see Berstein 2008, pp. 60-61). Bromfield’s most sustained portrayal of the uncanny is in his last novel, Mr. Smith, written in 1951. This book describes the last few years in the life of Wolcott Ferris, an ordinary, late-thirties, Midwestern, pre-WWII businessman married with two children. In a moment of revelation that breaks him open and brings him face to face with the uncanny, Ferris realizes that his life is devoid of substantive accomplishment: “[What I have done] is largely meaningless, routine, average, banal, without savor or satisfaction” (Bromfield 1951, p. 7). He sets himself to examine, through writing about it, this emptiness: “I must put on paper in some concrete form the pattern and significance, if any, of my own existence” (ibid., p. 34). Much of what he finds centers on his own domestic and social life in Oakdale, a fictional suburb of a Mid-Western community Bromfield calls “Crescent City,” a place at least partly based on his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio. Ferris’s revelation unfolds in the most mundane of home situations:
This passionate desire all began one October morning… while I was shaving and suddenly looked into my own eyes and saw myself…. I stood there with my razor poised, looking into my own eyes, thinking, ‘This is you? This is the guy you have to live with for the rest of your life?.... Why are you shut off from everyone and everything in spite of every effort to lose yourself?.... What are you missing? What precious experience… have you not had while life rushes on day after day with never any time to be alone, to think, or to do anything but the monotonous secure round of a mildly prosperous existence (ibid., pp. 24-25). This revelation provokes Ferris “to explore the thing which in the last analysis was me” (ibid., p. 27). He realizes that he must consider “the whole of living as it touched me and I touched it” (ibid.). An integral element in this uncomfortable wholeness is his home in a suburban neighborhood of “nice expensive houses built by middle-class people moderately successful in life like Enid and myself” (ibid., p. 7). These houses: …were all decorated alike in rather rich-looking muddy colors because the decorator… was aware that these people (like Enid and me) wanted nothing revolutionary. They wanted something ‘rich’ but not strange. The reds of the curtains and the upholstery were never quite red, nor the yellows yellow. All the colors were dimmed and muddy. ‘Off-white’ was an expression [the decorator often used]… and ‘off-white’ got somehow fixed in my brain as a symbol of so many things in the lives of all my friends and of Enid and myself (pp. 7-8). With America’s entry into World War II, Ferris becomes a Captain in the Army and is stationed on a remote Pacific Island with four enlisted men who must guard a compound of Quonset huts housing war supplies. Here with plenty of time to be alone and write, Ferris is able to complete his life story, out of which arises “a kind of satisfaction… a kind of purification and the realization of purpose, without which my life would have remained incomplete and even confused and meaningless” (pp. 272-73). Shortly after he completes his manuscript, he is shot dead by one of the enlisted men who claims he mistook Ferris for one of several Japanese soldiers hiding on the island.
21st-Century Implications for Homes and Inhabitation
Ferris’s story as presented by Bromfield in Mr. Smith is significant for topoanalysis because it portrays, early on in the 1940s, a situation in which the taken-for-grantedness of one’s home life suddenly falls into question and sets the questioner on a quest. As Jager (1985) explains, a house, when really inhabited, becomes a source of vision through which we better see, yet for Ferris, this source of vision suddenly becomes a distressing self-consciousness from which he is apart (in the sense of severed) rather than a part (in the sense of whole). His assumed stance of security and ease is sundered by vulnerability and shock. What, from Freud’s perspective, “should have remained a secret or hidden has come forth” (Freud, 1919/1973-74, vol. 17, p. 224). In confronting what he sees, Ferris arrives at a freer and more authentic way of inhabiting his world: “Whatever happens now, I have at least done something… I have achieved satisfaction and even peace…. I am purged and clean and empty” (Bromfield 1951, p. 333). Since Bromfield’s early portrayal, the house-as-trap-and-bad-dream has become a major theme in artistic and social-science portrayals of suburban life. Its continuing power is indicated by films like director Sam Mendes’ 1999 American Beauty or director Todd Haynes’ 2002 Far from Heaven, which, in different ways, call the American suburban way of life into question. This emphasis on the darker, less seemly aspects of homes and inhabitation adds an important new dimension to Bachelard’s claim that “All really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home” (Bachelard 1964, p. 4). If the
house is “our corner of the world,… our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the world” (ibid.), then a need is to incorporate phenomenological means to examine contemporary inhabitation’s more hidden, unsettling, and unexpected meanings and experiences. How, in short, are inhabitation and home to be interpreted in the 21st century? One conceptual need is to rephrase the nature of house and home in ways that incorporate its more typical, positive qualities but also provide a place for those qualities’ less typical, sometimes cryptic, opposites. For example, the intimacy of similarities typically assumed in phenomenological discussion on homes must be complemented with a recognition of and openness to difference (Manzo 2003; Massey 1992, 2005; Moore 2000; Morley 2000). Or the assumption of home associated with conventional-family structure must, as cases warrant, be replaced by non-traditional relationships and linkages (Blunt and Dowling 2008; Gorman-Murray 2006; Johnston and Valentine 1995). Or the phenomenological recognition of home as anchor and place of safety must be supplemented with the recognition that home can sometimes be a place of instability, discomfort, fear, or even violence—as in spousal, partner, or child abuse (Manzo 2003; Rose 1993; Young 1997). One of the most provocative recent expressions of such a reconstituted home and inhabitation is the five-year run of writer and director Alan Ball’s popular Home Box Office television series, Six Feet Under, which completed its final season in 2005 (Ball and Poul 2003). In this comedy-drama, a widowed mother, her teenage daughter, and two adult sons live in the upper stories of a Pasadena dwelling that, on ground and basement levels, houses their family mortuary business. In their love and concern for each other, though sometimes left unspoken and often expressed awkwardly, this family represents a more or less ordinary American home. But in many other ways—the fact that the daughter skirmishes with drugs and sex, that one son comes out as a gay man, that the mother struggles with the sudden loss of her husband, that the brothers as morticians bring the outside world of differences into their home through death—this program’s picture of contemporary inhabitation holds onto Bromfield’s place that grows around the heart but accommodates otherness, dysfunction, and emotional travail, both of the home and of the world the home enjoins. Privacy, security, family, intimacy, and continuity are all present in Ball’s domestic portrayal, but they are coupled with familial tensions, public conflicts, otherness, and hazard (Akass and McCabe 2005; Fahy 2006). In his writings about houses and homes, Bromfield registered the opposing lived poles presupposed and invoked by the phenomenon of inhabitation, but in none of this work did he draw these lived poles together as is done so well, for example, in Six Feet Under. As this television series suggests, the need today is for an at-homeness that directs itself inwardly toward inhabitants but also directs itself outwardly toward the world beyond the home, which is comfortable and secure yet open to uncertainty, inconstancy, strife, and difference (Massey 2005). Recognizing the need for an expanded conception of homes and inhabitation, I conclude with a preliminary attempt to delineate three claims that might assist with topoanalysis in our postmodern time. These claims are tentative and incomplete; they are grounded in the existential recognition that home and inhabitation incorporate both commonality and difference—both a lived wholeness and a lived dialectic that, when considered together, provide one conceptual means for explicating and organizing the multidimensionality of home and at-homeness. Note that the first claim relates to the wholeness of the inhabitation experience, while the second two claims relate to its dialectical aspects.
1. Home involves a lived whole unified by its total character. ▪ Home is not precisely defined in extent, in activity, in inhabitants, or in material contents. ▪ These dimensions of home can change without undermining its nature, provided the total character of “home” remains unimpaired. ▪ Materially, home is a dwelling occupying a particular place at a particular time, furnished in a particular way, with a particular inhabitant, set of inhabitants, or family. ▪ The significance, identity, and reach of home is not confined to its own boundary or contents but connects to and potentially affords and is afforded by the world beyond the home. ▪ In short, home is characterized by a unity in diversity that marks the reality of the particular home. 2. Home involves a lived dialectic founded in a twofold significance relating to internal diversity versus external connectedness. ▪ This lived dialectic exists for home as it is a place unto itself but also as it exists in relation to the larger world of which it is both apart and a part. ▪ The inner, more private, significance of home arises from its being apart from the rest of the world, while the outer, more public, significance of home arises from its contact with the world of which it is a part. ▪ These two significances are not the same and may even contradict each other, but both are integral to home as inhabitation. ▪ One way that this dialectical quality of home is revealed is through situations that exaggerate one lived pole or the other—e.g., the home that exists only for visitors, or the home that turns its back to the world and is inhospitable. 3. In both the inner and outer significances of home, there are “sustaining” and “undermining” situations, as summarized in table 1. ▪ Home as “sustaining” refers to a lifeworld situation that affords human well being, of both individuals and family; aspects of a sustaining at-homeness can include rootedness, appropriation, regeneration, at-easeness, and warmth (see table 1). ▪ Home as “undermining” refers to a lifeworld situation that in some way calls into question or disrupts human well being, of both individuals and family; aspects of undermining at-homeness can include disconnectedness, intimidation, degeneration, uneasiness, and coldness (see table 1). ▪ The home’s more outwardly-oriented, public significance can also be considered in terms of “sustaining” or “undermining” situations; aspects of home’s sustaining, outwardly-oriented situation can include permeability, accessibility, reciprocity, and legitimacy, whereas undermining aspects can include fragmentation inaccessibility, isolation, and illegitimacy (see table 1). ▪ On one hand, a sustaining home can be said to afford and reflect “existential insideness” (Relph 1976, p. 55)—i.e., the home and the world in which it finds itself is typically experienced without self-conscious awareness yet, in its lived nature, sustains a sense of individual and familial wellbeing and worth. On the other hand, the home that, for whatever reason, undermines a sense of individual and familial well being and worth can be said to afford and reflect “existential outsideness” (ibid., p. 51)—i.e., a sense of separateness and alienation from the home or from the wider world in which that home finds itself.
Table 1. Inhabitation and home’s inner & outer significances—sustaining & undermining situations (based in part on Blunt & Dowling 2006; Jager 1975, 1985; Manzo 2003; Moore 2000; Relph 1976, Seamon 1979).
Inwardly-oriented, more private significance of home
Sustaining situations ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Rootedness (taken-for-granted bodily familiarity, including routine actions). Appropriation (autonomy and control of the home and immediate surroundings). Regeneration (restorative atmosphere—e.g., place for physical and psychological rest and relaxation). At-easeness (freedom to be what one most comfortably is, including familial support). Warmth (supportive atmosphere involving a combination of material and human qualities). ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Undermining situations Disconnectedness (bodily unfamiliarity and confusion; spatial disorientation). Intimidation (interference with autonomy and control; imposed actions and patterns). Degeneration (disintegrative atmosphere—e.g., disruption of physical and psychological rest and relaxation). Uneasiness (imposed manipulation of selves or family, e.g., house robbery or domestic violence). Coldness (harsh, uncomfortable, or disruptive atmosphere).
Outwardly-oriented, more public significance of home
Sustaining situations ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Permeability (physical and spatial connectedness with world beyond home). Accessibility (range of outside places and situations readily available). Reciprocity (physical and existential interactions and exchanges between home and larger world). Legitimacy (informal & formal of acceptance of home by the larger world). ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Undermining situations Fragmentation (physical and spatial disconnectedness with world beyond home). Inaccessibility (limited range of outside places and situations). Isolation (minimal or no physical and existential interactions and exchanges between home and larger world). Illegitimacy (informal & formal rejection of home by larger world).
Overall situation (suggested by Relph 1976)
▪ Existential insideness (home and home place experienced without directed or self-conscious attention yet laden with significances that are tacit and unnoticed). ▪ Existential outsideness (a sense of alienation and separation from home or from the wider world in which home finds itself).
1. Earlier versions of this article were presented as papers at the annual meeting of the Association for the Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), Houston, February, 2008; and for a special session, “Bodily and Environmental Phenomenologies,” sponsored by the Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology Network, at the annual meeting of the International Association of Environmental Philosophy (IAEP), Pittsburgh, November, 2008. 2. Discussions of home and inhabitation include: Alexander 1985; Altman & Werner 1985; Barbey 1989; Berstein 2008; Blunt & Dowling 2005; Boschetti 1993; Chawla 1995; Cooper Marcus 1995; Graumann 2002; Harries 1993; Heidegger 1971; Jacobson 2009; Jager 1975, 1985; Korosec-Serfaty 1984; Manzo 2003; Massey 1992, 2005; Morley 2000; Mugerauer 1994; Norberg-Schulz 1985; Olivier 1977; Pallasmaa 2005; Relph 1976; Seamon 1979, 1993; Seamon & Mugerauer 1985; Shaw 1990; Vidler 1992; Winning 1990, 1991.
Akass, Kim and McCabe, Janet, eds., 2005. Reading Six Feet Under: TV to Die for. London: I.B. Tauris. Alexander, Christopher, 1985. The Production of Houses. New York: Oxford University Press. Altman, Irwin & Werner, Carol, eds., 1985. Home Environments. New York: Plenum. Anderson, David D., 1964. Louis Bromfield. New York: Twayne. ________, 1997. Louis Bromfield and Ecology in Fiction: A Re-Assessment. Midwestern Miscellany, 25: 48-57. Bachelard, Gaston, 1964. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press. Ball, Alan and Poul, Alan, eds., 2003. Six Feet Under: Better Living through Death. New York: Home Box Office. Barbey, G., 1989. Towards a Phenomenology of Home. Architecture and Behavior, 5: 1-10 [special issue on phenomenology of home]. Beeman, Randal S., 1992. Louis Bromfield Versus the “Age of Irritation,” Environmental History Review, 17 (spring): 91-102. _______ & Pritchard, James A., 2001. A Green and Permanent Land: Ecology and Agriculture in the Twentieth Century. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. Bernstein, Susan, 2008. Housing Problems. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Blunt, Alison & Dowling, Robyn, 2005. Home. New York: Taylor & Francis. Boschetti, Margaret, 1993. Staying in Place: Farm Homes and Family Heritage. Housing and Society, 17 (3): 57-65.
Bratton, Daniel, 1999. Ruined Landscapes in Three Novels by Louis Bromfield. Comparative Culture, 5: 1-11. Bromfield, Louis, 1939. It Takes All Kinds. New York: Harper and Brothers. ________, 1945. Pleasant Valley. New York: Harper and Brothers. ________, 1948. Malabar Farm. New York: Harper and Brothers. ________, 1950. Out of the Earth. New York: Harper and Brothers. ________, 1951. Mr. Smith. New York: Harper and Brothers. ________, 1955a. Animals and Other People. New York: Harper and Brothers. ________, 1955b. From My Experience. New York: Harper and Brothers. Bromfield Geld, Ellen, 1962. The Heritage: A Daughter’s Memories of Louis Bromfield. New York: Harper and Brothers [reissued with epilogue, Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000]. Carter, John T., 1995. Louis Bromfield and the Malabar Farm Experience. Mattituck, New York: Amereon House. Chawla, Louise, 1995. Reaching Home. Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology, 6 (2): 1215. Cooper Marcus, Clare, 1995. The House as a Mirror of Self. Berkeley, CA: Conari. Fahy, Thomas,2006. Considering Alan Ball: Essays on Sexuality, Death and America in the Television and Film Writings. London: McFarland. Fleming, Deborah, 2006. Louis Bromfield, Malabar Farm, and Faith in the Earth. Organization and Environment, 19 (3):309-20. Freud, Sigmund, 1919. The Uncanny, reprinted in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (trans. James Strachey). London: Hogarth Press, 1973-74, vol. 17. Goorman-Murray, A., 2006. Homeboys: The Uses of Home by Gay Australian Men. Social and Cultural Geographies, 7:53-69. Gramly, Allene Holt, 1987. Louis Bromfield. Mansfield, Ohio: Appleseed Press. Graumann, Carl F., 2002. The Phenomenological Approach to People-Environment Studies. In Robert Bechtel and Ara Churchman, eds., Handbook of Environmental Psychology, 2nd ed. (pp. 95-113). New York: Wiley. Harries, Karsten, 1993. Thoughts on a Non-Arbitrary Architecture. In David Seamon, ed., Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing (pp. 41-59). Albany, New York: State Uiversity of New York Press.
Heidegger, Martin, 1971. Poetry, Language, and Thought. New York: Harper & Row. Hughes, James M., 1979. Louis Bromfield: Ohio and Self-Discovery. Columbus: The State Library of Ohio, 1979 [reprinted 1997, Wooster Book Company, Wooster, Ohio]. Jacobson, Kirsten, 2009. A Developed Nature: A Phenomenological Account of the Experience of Home. Continental Philosophical Review, 42: 355-73. Jager, Bernd, 1975. Theorizing, Journeying, Dwelling. In A. Giorgi, et al., eds., Duquesne Studies in Phenomenological Psychology, vol. 4 (pp. 235-60). Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. ________, 1985. Body, House and City: The Intertwinings of Embodiment, Inhabitation and Civilization. In David Seamon & Robert Mugerauer, eds., Dwelling, Place and Environment (pp. 215-25). New York: Columbia University Press. Johnston, L. and Valentine, G., 1995. “Wherever I Lay My Girlfriend, That’s My Home”: The Performance and Surveillance of Lesbian Identities in Domestic Environments. In Bell, D. and Valentine, G., eds., Mapping Desires: Geographies of Sexualities (pp. 99-113). London: Routledge. Korosec-Serfaty, 1984. The Home from Cellar to Attic, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 4: 303-21. Little, Charles E., ed., 1988. Louis Bromfield at Malabar. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. Lord, Russell, 1961. Afterword, in Louis Bromfield, The Farm. New York: New American Library. Manzo, Lynn, 2003. Beyond House and Haven, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23: 47-61. Massey, Doreen, 1992. A Place Called Home, New Formations, 17:3-15. ________, 2005. For Space. London: Sage. Moore, R., 2000. Placing Home in Context, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 20 : 207-18 Morley, David, 2000. Home Territories: Media, Mobility and Identity. New York: Routledge. Mugerauer, Robert, 1994. Interpretations on Behalf of Place. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. Nelson, Philip J., 2001. The Ideal of Nature and the “Good Farmer”: Louis Bromfield and the Quest for Rural Community.” Ohio History, 110 (winter-spring): 5-25. Nelson, Velvet, 2005. The Temporal Landscape in the Writing of Louis Bromfield. The Great Lakes Geographer, 12 (2):1-13. Olivier, Marc, 1977. The Psychology of the House. London: Thames and Hudson.
Owings, L. C., 1997. An Ohio Walden: Louis Bromfield and Malabar Farm. In Quest for Walden: A study of the Country Book in American Popular Literature, with an Annotated Bibliography, 18631995 (pp. 128-42). London: McFarland. Pallasmaa, Juhani, 2005. Encounters [esp. part 3, “Inhabiting”]. Helsinki: Rakennustieto. Relph, Edward C., 1976. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion. Rose, Gillian, 1993. Feminism and Geography. Cambridge: Polity. Scott, Ivan, 1998. Louis Bromfield, Novelist and Agrarian Reformer: The Forgotten Author. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press. Seamon, David, 1979. A Geography of the Lifeworld. New York: St. Martin’s. ________, ed., 1993. Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing: Toward a Phenomenological Ecology. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ________, 2000. A Way of Seeing People and Place: Phenomenology in Environment-Behavior Research. In S. Wapner et al., eds., Theoretical Perspectives in Environment-Behavior Research (pp. 15778). New York: Plenum. ________, 2008. Place, Belonging, and Environmental Humility: The Experience of “Teched” as Portrayed by American Novelist and Agrarian Reformer Louis Bromfield. In D. Payne, ed., Writings in Place: John Burroughs and his Legacy, (pp. 158-73). Newcastle, Great Britain: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ________ & Mugerauer, Robert, eds. 1985. Dwelling, Place & Environment: Towards a Phenomenology of Person and World. New York: Columbia University Press. Shaw, S., 1990. Returning Home. Phenomenology + Pedagogy, 8:224-36. Vidler, Anthony 1992. The Architectural Uncanny. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Winning, A. ,1990. Homesickness. Phenomenology + Pedagogy, 8: 78-89. ________, 1991. The Speaking of Home. Phenomenology + Pedagogy, 9: 172-81. Young, Iris Marion, 1997. House and Home: Feminist Variations on a Theme. In Intersecting Voices: Dilemmas of Gender, Political Philosophy, and Policy (pp. 134-64). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
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