Narrative Presencing of Architectural Monuments: Atmospheres in Seibo There Below

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Engaging a selection of narratives from the episodic novel Seibo There Below (2008) by László Krasznahorkai, this paper discusses how literature can enable the atmospheric presencing of well-known architectural monuments’ atmospheres. Belonging to a genre of literature that depicts historical locations and buildings without fictional elaborations (Lending, 2018), Seibo There Below offers readers the possibility to experience moods and sensations of geographically and culturally diverse places of heritage, in unexpected ways.

More specifically the paper examines how the reader can presence the multilayered atmosphere of three famous monuments, that are spatial manifestations of three distinctively different sets of religious beliefs and civilizations: the Athenian Acropolis (Greece), the Ise Grand Shrine (Japan) and the palace of Alhambra (Spain). Through the respective narratives “Up on the Acropolis,” “The Rebuilding of the Ise Shrine,” and “Distant Mandate” the paper unpacks atmospheric descriptions related to these monuments, through the affective and emotional accounts of the novel’s characters. By doing so, it allows architects, historians and theoreticians to presence atmospherically, in situ atmospheres of significant places and understand them under a different light. Based on the conviction that literary narratives can contribute to a proper attunement with atmospheres of places even unknown (or not yet physically encountered), the paper focuses on how the emerging literary language, which is inherently innovative, polysemic and metaphoric, can contribute towards this end (Pérez-Gómez, 2016).

The paper concludes exhibiting how the narratives of these monuments and the possibility as readers to presence their atmospheres in specific times and through given conditions, can even contradict established historical views, which tend to create specific expectations for the buildings’ understanding. This literary presencing suggests an architectural approach towards place that prioritizes emotional and subjective elements emerging from an embodied perspective, and questions canonized interpretations emerging from political agendas that can influence our perception.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2020


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