The Gait of the City: Oedipus and Impressions of Modernity


This project investigates historical changes in urban phenomena. It questions how cities are made manifest through experience. To this end the research is concerned with styles of appearing that have been shown by way of foot. In questioning how cities, motility and senses of self intersect historically, it develops what is termed an onto-peripatetics that traces the genealogy of self-conscious walking - specifically forms of pedestrianism that have entered into writing. It seeks to identify a deeper temporal substratum to the now routine association of walking and writing in romanticism and nineteenth century urban accounts. The project tracks via the Cartesian and Kantian cogitos a particular disjunction between self and world that has occasioned a synthesising drive exemplified by travel, observation and written reflection. If in this synthesis a particular cognitive bias has prevailed over bodies, the research aims to think into this hiatus itself, seeking to unearth the genealogy and the productivity - politically, socially, philosophically – sustaining it. The presumption pursued in the project has been twofold: firstly that this hiatus belongs to an enduring or rather reduplicating figure – Oedipus; and secondly, that both the hiatus and its namesake are integrally tied with Occidental urban life. What is termed an Oedipal vector – traversing myth, tragedy, aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari termed schizoanalysis – is read against an array of literary and philosophical texts addressing urban space. Ranging from Plato, in whom is found a metaphysical walk, to an idiorrhythmy (Barthes 2013) crafted by Rimbaud in his encounter with Victorian London, the project aims to account for a disjunctive synthesis (Deleuze & Guattari, 2000) unfolded in urban place-accounts historically

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    This paper was published in Goldsmiths Research Online.

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