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An archaeology of perception: verbal descriptions of architecture in travel writings

Hultzsch, A.; (2011) An archaeology of perception: verbal descriptions of architecture in travel writings. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis relates two fields, the history of perception and that of language, to each other in order to argue that the ways in which we verbally describe buildings are inherently linked to the way in which we look at and make sense of them. It will show that what we understand when seeing, what we know to have seen, is shaped by the means we find to express and communicate it. The subject matter of this research is the unfamiliar architectural object as it is perceived, described and imagined while travelling. Contextualising and linking various descriptions of built spaces in travel writings at distinct moments between the seventeenth and twentieth century, perceptual modes of British and German travellers in Italy and England are mapped out. Special emphasis is placed on the context of the seventeenth century, and the birth of Empiricism, which is argued to have led to a new way of perceiving as well as describing the built environment. Texts investigated include travel diaries, letters, guidebooks as well as novels by authors such as John Evelyn, John Bargrave, Daniel Defoe, Tobias Smollett, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jacob Burckhardt, John Ruskin and Nikolaus Pevsner. Through an archaeology of perception, local and often fragmentary narratives are constructed - ‘snapshots’ which focus on past moments rather than providing an extensive historical panorama. Processes of rendering, ordering, thinking, looking and reading the perceived are submitted to methods drawn from the following fields: the disciplines of history - the histories of art, sciences and literature - as well as the cognitive sciences, particularly cognitive linguistics, alongside the more specific concerns of architectural history and theory. Modes of perception located and retraced include notions of immediate and detached recording, of fragmented and vectorial structuring, of emotional versus truthbearing seeing, of a pure and hyperreal looking as well as of itemizing against visual description.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: An archaeology of perception: verbal descriptions of architecture in travel writings
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from the e-thesis
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1335832
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