Tag Archives: Piranesi

Moving through Rome’s Pasts: from Piranesi to Freud and Back

We now map mega-regions that extend along highways far beyond the former boundaries of cities, along roads and through suburbs increasingly lack clear bounds.  The extent of such cities seem oddly appropriate for forms of mapping that seem to lack respect for physical markers of bounds.  These maps reflect the experience of their environments as networks more than sites, to be sure.  It may be surprising to see the mapping of the ancient world as a similar network, and to try to understand the mobility of the ancient world and Mediterranean in terms of modern tools of mapping travel: tracing the extension of extra-urban areas along distended networks of inhabited paved space, indeed, suggests the morphing of cities from the past, and almost removes them from historical time or erase the familiar palimpsestic relation to known space, or the city as a space for walking.

We may be compelled to apply the same data driven images to ancient Rome, driven due to our own continuing and increased disorientation on the proliferating data maps.  But does their logic maintain the complexity of time, space, and place in the ancient world, or how might it better attract interest, by casting the map as a site of investigating not only space, but time? Despite the limitations of their coverage of space, and the limited benefits of imagining the ability to measure times of travel or distances to monuments as a record of ancient space or Roman life, it is tempting to be satisfied with placing it in a network. For to do so offers a way of envisioning ancient Rome as a mega city and hub of transit.  But the erasure that this brings in humanistic experience of the map is striking.  

mobility fingerprint ROme

The risk of a loss of materiality is steep: for we seem to lose a sense of the presence of the map of the city, visualizing the distances of travel, costs of economic transit, and time of travel in a web of commercial exchange we both project back our own sense of disorientation.  When we use modern notions such as that of the urban mobility fingerprint as Moovel labs did in concretely visualizing the medieval saying that “all roads lead to Rome” in its  project of mapping distances from the ancient city, we run the risk of insisting on the transparency of data, reducing maps and the pattern of mapping to a substrate of spatial relations sufficient in an almost ahistorical sense, and risk asserting the authority of an app over material processes of building and mapping Rome across time.  The elision of time and political space on a map risks blind-spots of significance interpretive consequence: who can forget the justification Benito Mussolini made for his march on Rome as a unifying call of Italian fascism, a cartographic propaganda piece that he exploited in the fascist press, linking the march on Rome to the restoration of Italy’s martial greatness, without the seizure of Rome as Italy’s capitol, inviting Italians to realize how the March on Rome that he would long celebrate as a moment of national destiny: his vacuous platitude, in a mass media remembrance of soldiers’ slain in that campaign as evidence of Italy’s centrality on a global stage of armed combat–“there would never have been a march on Moscow today, without the March on Rome!”–was a staple of national myth-making, akin to medallions minted in 1942 of the March on Rome’s twentieth anniversary, and to affirm the global consequence of a moment that marked the start of the Fascist Party’s new national calendar.

We might be trying to find mooring in the mapping of the past in maps, as Mussolini, in lining the roads that went to Rome to the military lines of attack on Moscow, as a way of remapping Rome’s centrality in the national imaginary.  

We avoid the problem of mapping the presence of the ancient form of the city so long returned to be mapped, as a key to presence of the ancient city in the city, in ways that Rome was so long understood. The inscription of Rome’s authority in an empire without boundaries–or from the interest of archeological “maps” of Rome as a proto-nation in that repository for the nineteenth century imagination, the Baedeker Guide, as a way to look for moorings of the past; the current fad for positing mobility as a fons et origo of displacement, travel, and global mobility in the routes or roads to Rome, and creating materiality in the map. And while we do want to illustrate or understand flows from the city, and the location of Rome in a broader Mediterranean and European space–by privileging flow, we wonder–is mapping Rome’s place a way of coming to terms with the mobility of the modern world, or its lack of materiality?

Flow from Rome

is there some loss of the materiality of the ancient world? For rather than show the city of Rome, so often refigured in almost encomiastic terms, by asserting its pride of place in a network, and celebrating the construction of its almost vegetal organic network of modernized roads in order to bring it closer to the viewer, there is a visual trick of transferring a dataset to a schematic rendering that flattens the complex human patterns of the past, and does so by obscuring the deeply humanistic layered nature of the map and of the past, so clearly preserved in the famous bifolium image of Rome, that old imperial city, in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, based on a lost chorographic encomiastic of its buildings’ magnificence.

Nuremberg Chronicle, “Roma,” (1493), leaves LVII-LVIII

If we might consider the imperial schema of travel as a more exact map of space, the enhanced topographic rendering that calls attention to its place in a network, alters the intense interest that the mapping of the city’s place has held, so aptly illustrated back when the physician Hartman Schedel returned to his native Nuremberg, woodcut views of Rome and other Italians in hand, that he would assemble a massive genealogy that restored centrality to the place of Germans from the outskirts of the Roman Empire, to imagine Swabian cities as modern heirs of Rome’s imperial grandeur. The symbolic authority of the city, long akin ago a vessel of memory, retained symbolic authority even as maps encoded a continuous space.  In response to the danger of erasure by the a coordinate grid, the material practices of mapping Rome have their own history, neglected in data visualizations’ relatively flat space,–not to mention the sense of a space removed from history that they create.

Detail of Nuremberg Chronicle, leaves LVII-LVIII (1493)

The deep history of the material practices of mapping Rome constitute something of a deep source of meaning and a source of fascination; mapping of the city the remained in the city, negotiating the presence of the antique in the city.  Rather than disembody the routes of motion as defining the city, the images that embodied the material presence of the antique city was the dominant presence in a long history of mapping the city, whose ancient traces were preserved and excavated in the many maps of Rome made since before the Renaissance.  Such maps, viewed in their historical context and continuity, preserve a sense of the form of the antique that provided a form as an actor for visitors to Rome, and a lure for the site of the continued presence of traces of the space of a historical Rome that exists among the modern city’s space.  Indeed, maps may themselves offer the best ways to familiarize oneself to the material traces of orienting oneself to the presence of the antique that continue to inhabit its present.

And the prestige that the Baedeker guide long held in the German imagination during the nineteenth century to orient educated travelers who were reprising humanist physician Hartmann Schedel’s Reise as a voyage of cultural formation. For Schedel, following the footsteps of his father, Rome was a lost center, continuing in Vienna, and site of a mythic imaginary of a lost past that his father, Herman, who preceded him in traveling for studies to Italy. The transmission of a heritage of antiquity to the border of the ancient Roman empire in Nuremberg became a running conceit animating the transmission of classical luster across historical ages in the early illustrated book of the Lber Chronicarum, a book assembled form many. of woodcuts and city views in Schedel’s large library of printed images in a visual form that was almost a showpiece of early printed propaganda for the Holy Roman Empire just before the discovery of the New World.

While Vienna may be a strange place to begin with the exploration of Rome’s antique, but the fascination was in ways best seen–or first framed–from afar, and the imperial city of Vienna, on the edges of the Roman empire, was, with Nuremberg, looked to Rome as the site of an empire past, whose past still haunted he earth. The deeply affective ties to place led to the escalation of the Baedeker guides instilled tied practices of mapping to personal formation, as if to decode and interpret the past, and reconstruct the evidence of past worlds across time in particularly powerful ways, akin to the reconstruction of a past habitus or frame of mind that haunted the nineteenth century, and indeed haunts the present. Sigmund Freud must have eagerly used his Baedeker when he told his younger brother, Alex, with eagerness in 1905 of his “sense of obligation to identify–Baedeker in hand!–new regions, museums, palaces, ruins” in Italy, and must have used them to lead him to “wealth of Roman relics: that he fund in Aquilea in 1898, from “tombstones, amphorae, medallions of the gods from the amphitheater, statues, bronzes and jewelry” to a cornucopia of the past that the local museum held, and he was eager to index in his mind’s past and its traumas, as if the images of the antique might resolve a sense of psychic integrity and continuity in the personal formation of personhood that hysteria had, for Freud, disrupted and impeded: the creation of a sense and a story of continuity led Freud to turn to ancient images and archeological metaphors repeatedly in his work, not only for the purpose of dignifying his own “new science” of psychoanalysis, but to affirm the materiality of restoring a neurological harmonious balance by materializing the place of trauma in the personal past, by analogy to how material artifacts offered material testimonies that assured the survival of Rome’s historically removed past.

In consultation with his friend the art historian Emanuel Löwy, who Freud had relied for archeological maps and diagrams to discuss the romance of Rome’s ruins–or Roman ruins of Pompeii–provided a powerful visual metaphor and figurative form for describing the new science of psychoanalysis might uncover the repressed past, buried not under the earth, but in the mind, in a positivist and aesthetic analogy able to validate psychoanalysis as a cure. In presenting the case of Dora, only published in 1905, but based on earlier clinical observations of his analysand, the metaphor of archeology as a recovery of the concrete expression of the psyche was at hand: he told his readers of his scientific probity as a psychoanalyst by confessing he sought merely to follow “the example of those discoverers whose good fortune it is to bring to the light of day after their long burial the priceless though mutilated relics of antiquity.” If he admitted “I have restored what is missing, taking the best models known to me from other analyses,” like a painter, “I have like the most conscientious of archaeologists, not omitted to mention in each case where the authentic parts end and my reconstructions begin.”

While Freud’s sense of self as a similarly cultured man led him to accept works of art and literature as a model to grasp the workings of the unconscious, and to map the relation of repression and neurosis, viewing each as reflections of the mechanics of consciousness in poetic “motifs” (Dichtungstoffen) that he treated as “concrete expression” of the mechanics Freud described as the dream-work; the artistic object replaced the visual character of the dream-work–the “principle means of representation” in dreams–and itself “analogous to the decipherment of an ancient pictographic script, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs.” Analogy to archeological practices recalled the heroic image of Heinrich Schleimann’s fantastic discovery of what he claimed to be the ruins of ancient Troy, but dignified the work of psychoanalysis as uncovering objects of value in the mind–and the probity of uncovering the latent content within the dream work. They exemplified a mythos of the recovery of the past–as a reassembly of the artifacts of the past by the painstaking process of moral probity.

The diagnosis of hysteria was only arrived at through grasping self-representation of the psyche Freud called “the method of figuration characteristic of dreams,” so analogous to what the plastic arts found their own material “ways of expressing [zum Ausdruck zu bringen]” by which the skilled analyst unpacked often elusive logic of the dream work but by foregrounding its “latent content” usually concealed to the dreamer or analysand, by excavating their pasts. Freud readily translated the figurative notion and practice of the dream work to one of archeological excavating artifacts otherwise locked in a sedimented past: if his framing of Dora’s case with the metaphor of archeology betrays a certain sleight of hand as the course of analysis was not complete, the dignity of “priceless though mutilated relics of antiquity” offer a window to a past that would not otherwise be seen. The analogy was as self-serving as his display of a collection of plaster reproductions of ancient artifacts in his office. Freud readily consulted his art historian friend Löwy, whose work had also recently inspired art historian Aby Warburg, about artistic and archeological literature; Löwy argued primitive design be regarded as a mnemonic form influenced Warburg’s theory of images. Freud may well have known through his friend of Warburg’s own work on the physical character of the robed Florentine Nymph, a model Freud would have recognized in Jensen’s Gradiva–a figure Warburg argued had enjoyed a psychic status as a point of access of humans to the divine, and a point of access typical of Renaissance culture. If, for Warburg and Jolles, the nymph re-rendered the Roman goddess whose beauty was able to so overwhelms the viewer’s emotional response, the graceful posture of the Gradiva statue provoked sublime response able to transcend historical and personal time alike, when seen by Norbert Hannold., and unlocks the personal memories of repression at the seat of his neurotic condition.

The reappearance of the nymph as a site for motion from the ancient to modern, and from human to divine, was repeated in the “archeo-logic” by which Freud discussed the resolution of trauma. The search for a distinct form of logic influenced Freud’s fascination with the “archeo-logic” to move from dreams to consciousness, and from the consciousness or conscious observation, akin to the collective consciousness Schedel and his circle traced to a Roman past. Archeology by the nineteenth century had excavated the material past in a scientific manner. The image of excavation led him to universalize precepts of between analytic interpretation, personal case history, and therapeutic cure, as the role of material practices of archeology were combined with individual remembering of a past lost trauma in the story of Norbert Hannold that Jansen decribed in a short fiction published in the Neue Freie Presse in 1902 that become a model for practices of therapeutic analysis. Freud reflected early in his career on the “strange” manner by which his case histories of hysterics “read like short stories,” feeling strongly that the “story of the patient’s suffering” was entwined with the “symptoms of his illness” in 1895; when he read Jansen’s story in serialized form, Freud must have been struck by its beginning from a dream that transported the hero, Hannold, to a time before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, in the ancient world, and a vision of the living image of a woman walking in splendor he later found in Pompeii during a trip that might constitute his archeological field. The fictional archeologist travelled Pompeii in ways that Freud read so readily an ideal of the therapeutic effects of repression on the mind, and liberating powers of the uncovering of an ancient past that Freud turned to it for insight into neurosis, and an example of how the psychic labor of dreams to express repressed desire. The transformation was illustrated in how a recently reconstructed archeological ruin offered insight to the inexpressable of Hannold’s uncosncious, envoicing a repressed desire: the inexpressable grace of Gradiva’s gait in a bas relief. The story’s final elucidation of the archeologist’s fascination with Gradiva’s distinctive gait, unable to be found in the gait of modern women, is only resloved in the story in the theatrical setting in the excavation of Pompeii, a site for access to the antique, the intermediate space of illusion and reality that the ruins of Pompeii presented in Jansen’s story; Freud placed the antique reproduction in his Viennese office to make it a transitory space between sickness and health.

The ruins became a basis for viewing the figure of the woman draped in diaphanous clothes–an archetype of desire–who had been identified by later archeologists as not walking at all, but dancing, the fluidity of her body no doubt communicating the beguiling motion communicated in the bas relief by which Hannold, Jansen, and Freud were beguiled. If Freud saw the mind as “the frontier between states of mind described as normal and pathological” divide, one that “each of us probably crosses it many times in the course of a day,” the story of a mind haunted by the gait of the form of a bas relief of a walking woman which lead an archeologist to travel to Pompeii’s ruins is a visit from normal to pathological and back. Hannold travels in the story to Pompeii in hopes of discovering a woman he witnessed in dreams emerging alive from the ruins, as if she were the last survivor of a city buried in a volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. He follows his uncanny attraction to ruins of Pompeii to find an ancient woman believed long dead who incarnates the object of his past desire; in the hot afternoon sun, he is unsure if he is dreaming, or experiencing real life. Traveling to Pompeii’s celebrated ruins, his mind haunted by recurrent encounters with the woman he calls Gradiva, “she who flourishes while walking,” first seen in Naples’ Archeological Museum and of which he owns in a copy, he cannot believe she has come to life. Freud argued that after this unexpected encounter magically unlocks his unacknowledged erotic attraction to a woman who walking with the same striking gait who seems to lead him from his study of archeology to love. Hannold is haunted by the vision of the woman from the bas-relief, Freud argued, reveals a suffering from repressed love that had been repressed by the sobriety of his archeological endeavors: when a figure of the same gait uncannily appears as if from the ruins, the elegance he believed specific to the ancient bas relief is revealed to belong to a forgotten love object from his past; what seemed a hallucination becomes a dramatic recognition scene in the excavated ruins. For Freud, the gait of the advancing woman was a model of catharsis of psychoanalytic cure that removed Hannold from neurotic tendencies, and passage to health, worthy of displaying in his analytic office as a an icon of reconstructing a patient’s repressed past; the past existed in this token as if grasping the plan of an ancient city that was excavated from beneath the earth.

maps pompeii
Old map of Pompei (Pompeii) museum site in 1929. Buy vintage map replica  poster print or download picture
Map of Pompeii, 1881 and 1912 (1:4200)

The story of Gradiva’s advance offered patients a prompt to uncover their past trauma, and its prominence in his office on the wall beside the patient’s couch suggests the extent to which the science of archeology haunted Freud’s formulation of psychoanalysis. While it it not known when the reproduction entered his possession, he wrote to his wife Martha how the encounter of a statue of Gradiva in the Chiaramonte Gallery of the Vatican Museums offered an occasion to attach special meaning to displayed in a reproduction for all patients in his Viennese office, as if it embodied the constant process toward health a psychoanalyst might provide.

Art historian Mary Bergstein felt Gradiva possessed, for Freud, a curative agency, that accorded respect as a female physician to cure neurosis–perhaps an acknowledgment of the liberatory role of Anna O. in their own discussions. He felt the bas-relief might offer all patients a visual prompt for moving from sickness and repression to health, and illusions to reality, the moving statue that Freud displayed in his study so that it would lie in the line of sight of the analysand or patient who lay on his couch as they recounted dreams took pride of place among antiquities as a motion from neurosis to health. If the field of the History of Art lay at the crossroads at that time of philosophy, psychology, and historical expertise, offering keys for the unpacking of cultural meaning, the Gradiva figure whose reproduction Freud owned provided a basis for the analyst to illustrate his cultivation and a philosophical prompt of the possible agency in narrating the story of repression, which Freud believed lay at the root of hysteric inability to move, as if loosening the bounds of restraint that prevented or inhibited patients from moving limbs; the figure of Gradiva who Jensen had described bore an uncanny parallel to the figure of the Nymph–the ninfa fiorentina–who for Aby Warburg and André Jolles argued in 1900 embodied a goddess who had descended to the world from Mount Olympus, entering the private bed-chambers of Florentines and populating the paintings of Florentine artists in a dancing pose that revealed distinctively flowing drapery; the mysterious female figure derived iconographic power through her miraculous embodiment that these Germanic men detected as they crossed the Alps, an image of unusual vitality, akin to the image of Gradiva. As historians of art, Warburg and Jolles argue the same nymph recurred dizzyingly and repeatedly in paintings of Botticelli, Fra Fillip Lippi, Pollaiuolo, Ghirlandaio, and Donatello, an unknown female figure–perhaps a freed slave, or a foreign subject–who assumed the status of a “real being of flesh and blood” in art, of particular emotive power.

Freud had found a strikingly similar image of Gradiva that would culminate his own interest in art collecting, begun in 1896 soon after his death, the year he had formulated the term “psychoanalysis.” As Warburg and Jolles viewed the dancing Nymph as descended from Olympus, to be a new source of vitality evident in Florentine iconography, Freud privileged the female figure of Gradiva for the fluidity of her movement, described by Jensen, that was perhaps attributed to her dancing movement. Freud may have recognized the dancing figure Warburg had described; she joined the “plaster copies of Florentine statues” he added to his study as objects “of exceptional recreation and comfort to me” (1896); finding Gradiva on a 1907 visit to Rome led him to delight in seeing the robed figure as if she was “an old friend,” even if perched in the Vatican Gallery’s Museo Chiaramonte at a distance, “high up on a wall.” The reproduction of the dancing woman was soon added to his study.

Gradiva in Freud’s Study, 1938/Edmund Engelman

Gradiva became an icon and emblem of a model of moving from the ruins into daylight, moving from neurosis to love–a figure who was seen by Jensen as “walking,” but .

Freud may have been especially attracted to the story as a privileged site of the observation of the ancient world, where the uncovered excavation of ruins provided as privileged site for the excavation of an entire city. First mapped from the late eighteenth century and an open-air museum for some twenty years by 1898, as above, which he knew from maps, the popular novella glossed observation of the antique prompted an erotics of encountering the past, eliding well-mapped archeological repository of the ancient world with liberating an unconscious repression Hannold hoped he could embody by a visit to Pompeii. The visit to the famous ruins prompted an unexpected unveiling of repressed childhood love that Freud valued for its dramatic power–if Jensen’s fiction was a potent allegory Freud mapped it onto an archeology of mental repression that produces hysteria, its allegory for the therapeutic cure in the ruins, as release from repression the archeologist a needed archeology of his past to leave his pursuit, enacting an archeology of the mind instead.

The story was useful to explain the curative possibilities of his own fledgling science. Freud’s circulation among acolytes and students of the piece of fiction as a sort of initiation into the new science he was eager to announce to the world circa 1907-8 led him to take a page from contemporary art historians, ancient archeologists, and antiquarians to shape a new plastic language to begin discussing the mind. If Jung recognized the similarities with which Freud was accustomed to exhibit antiquities to his patients as a basis for association, the reproduction acted as a prompt for passage to health that Freud saw almost as a talisman, and idea propt, for to excavate “strata of latent content,” as Bergstein argued, that the analyst might uncover in ways not accessible immediately to an unschooled reader, as a nexus of a global history of the destruction of Pompeii’s ruins and personal psychopathology, as the strata of ruins are magically elided with the psychic strata of the potential hysteric. It is not often noted that art historians including Arnold Hauser were in the same time reconstructing the Roman copy from fragments, in a powerful image of the recovery of the past. If Freud argued the fictional Hannold was typical of one vulnerable to neurosis by his intellectualization of ruins dangerously divided archeologist’s imagination and intellect, risking repression of biological instinct by intellectual attachments, his encounter amidst the ancient ruins of a woman he knew from childhood, “walking in splendor” her foot rising from the ground on flexed toes–embodied in the sublime site of Pompeii’s ruins amidst his “almost visionary state” as the love he was convinced existed, but did not know where to locate. Elision of the ancient ruins with memory created an uncanny scrutiny of her distinctive act of physical advance, haunted by the unique gait known only in his dreams; Hannold believes her a phantasm until he recognized the woman not asa delusion but a love object able to liberate him from his intellectualized passions.

The attempt to reconstruct the fragmentary images of the Horeae that Jensen called “Gradiva” was a current pursuit of archeological reconstruction, and served to problematize the archeological retrieval and reassembly of a past so central to analysis. The story of the ancient statue was not Pygmalion, but an animated statue able lead him from hysteria as could only the best analyst would, by purposfully navigating not only through the elision of time and space in Pompeii , so that the woman he feared killed by Vesuvius’ volcanic explosion moved from inanimate stone and embodiment, death to life, and hysteria to love, and across the different strata after being made manifest in his own unconscious mind. Freud so eagerly shared the novella with students and acolytes for its insight into the psyche by the ability to uncover its physical strata to reveal repression, a process he had struggled to imagine in pictorial terms. When he had presented his virtuoso analysis to the novella’s author, he learned Jensen had conceived the story without visiting Pompeii, before a reproduction, he sought a reproduction of the very image that would be installed in his study in a pride of place; it recalled, at least for Freud, the experience of being overcome in the “almost visionary state” surrounded by antique ruins beneath Pompeii’s noon sun for his own analytic study in Vienna, at the foot of the couch of patients: was it also perhaps an image by which he would be known?

The reproduction Freud displayed of the woman’s isolated her form became an icon for Freudian analysis in future years, and an image of the cure of hysteria and neurosis begun by repression, and needing to be recovered. Freud had cast his work as that of an archeologist discovering the most deeply buried primal scenes in Studies in Hysteria (1896), presented Jensen’s novella for its insight to how a sublimely cathartic encounter released repression of the past to prevent neurological disorder–he had shared the story as a discussion of the curing neurosis by the sublime encounter with the past in the setting of antique ruins with a woman who “accepted [his] delusion so fully to set him free of it,” perhaps beyond the abilities of analysis, by easing the trauma of repression in recognize the archeologist’s deep desire to bring her back into his life. For the story intersected with his own fascination with ancient artifacts as psychic prompts–his scholarly attachment to the neo-Attic relief was lifted by embodied love, due to the psychic release by the woman Hannold feared killed by Pompeii emerging from his past–although the reocnstruction was not of an isolated woman, so much as a procession.

“Horae,” Roman Reproduction of Fourth Century Greek original, Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican Museums

We do not know if Freud traveled to Rome and looked at the reassembled relief in the Vatican’s Museo Chiaramonti, above, to buy the reproduction–but he had described his own encounter with the statue in such animated terms to his wife by post as a moment of joyous recognition, he perhaps acquired a copy from an antiquities dealer. The bas relief that became as an icon of Freudian cure–displayed in the Bergstrasse study in Vienna, brought with him to London. Freud bought a reproduction of the figure Freud not as a broken complex, but an isolated figure: he rhapsodized to his wife of uncharacteristic joy and levity at the encounter on his final day in Rome, as “a dear familiar face [seen] after being alone so long” as if it was by chance, which made the entire city “more and more marvelous,” as if to explain a gift he permitted himself. He had written to Martha Bernays in response to news of her receipt of a piece of furniture he sent to her in Vienna; did he acquire the reproduction that very year?

The reproduction of the fragmented broken bas relief he purchased isolated he figure of the woman, as if timeless. The reproduction fortuitously erased any sense of her destruction by time, or any archeological debates as to the figure’s reconstruction, by framing her alone–as Jensen’s copy–as if it were a figure who removed from the past. He referred to her not by the title of Hauser’s reconstruction, but the very name Jensen gave her–Gradiva, echoing Homer’s “Mars Gradivus,” as an icon of health: the God dressed to approach battle, an iconic statue of securing peace; the new name of the advancing woman was an icon of an ability to overcome past trauma and transform neurosis to love. (The antiquity offered an emblem for Freud to “present” his craft to the public: Mars was dressed to enter battle in magnificence, but Gradiva became an image of restoring mental health, casting the psychiatrist as a master archeologist of sorts, able to lead his patient from neurosis into a mobility that was foreign from the neurotic patients afflicted by unwanted inability of partial paralysis.) The ancient statuary Jensen described as a phantasm surviving of a girl he knew in childhood, but had not acknowledged, mirrored the 1903 art historical reconstruction Arnold Hauser assembled of a set of fragmented figures, but the copy Freud purchased distilled it as a single figure.

If Freud famously longed to associate psychiatry with the metaphor of archeology before it was a field, he believed the novella of a fictional archeologist offered insight to the operations of the mind of the neurotic and its redemption: he excitedly shared the story of how the archeologist overcame neurotic fantasies as the figure of a walking woman emerged from temporal disorientation of the ruins of Pompeii, to be acknowledged not as an illusion of the past, but still living, and to dispel his neurosis by presenting the gait of a love from childhood, in a cathartic clarifying moment of cure. Before his visit, Freud learned with some disappointment that rather than an actual sublime event, Jensen had not encountered the illusion in Pompeii, or seen the statue save in reproduction: his belief it offered insight was perhaps just “an egocentric phantasy” analysis would reveal “bound up “his most intimate erotic experiences,” he confessed to Jung. Coining the term “Gradiva” for the woman advancing in the ancient city who emerged from the archeologist’s unconscious but called him to a better life, Freud felt, Jensen had taken the term from Mars Gradivus, the God of War walking into Battle, whose advancing across time Hauser had recently reconstructed, whose image Freud must have known in print. Freud wrote to his wife from Rome filled with uncharacteristic joy and levity as he informed his final days were interrupted by encountering “a dear familiar face . . . after being alone so long” which he must have visited in the Museo Chiaramonti intentionally, as if an encounter by chance, which suddenly rendered the entire city “more and more marvelous,” as if it were a gift he permitted himself, described to his wife in response to news of her receipt of furniture he sent to her in Vienna.

As Jensen’s fiction had focussed on the advancing woman, who seemed to emerge from the past for his hero, the image that was itself a reconstruction of fragments that Arnold Hauser had published some year before was treated by Freud as a key to the unconscious origins of neurosis. The image appealed to Freud as a prompt uncovering repression, a sublime therapeutic moment that he saw as casting archeology as an erotic encounter of the recovery of the past: if it is unclear if he had received the reproduction later hung in his office at the foot of his couch from Emanuel Löwy, an old friend who had taught art history in Rome, who he probably had seen in his 1907 vacation, who he often had consulted on Roman ruins; Löwy, on whom Freud long relied for purchases of reproductions of ancient art would send Freud his own monograph on neo-Attic art, with the simple inscription “for Gradiva–the author.

Erichthonius and the Three Daughters of Cecrops (1906) (14592124630).jpg
Reconstruction of the Bas Relief, including the Figure of “Gradiva”

But Freud bought a reproduction that framed simply the figure Jensen had described, rather than the bas relief assembled rom fragments, a figure that belied its own fragmentation as a ruin. Magnified as if a goddess, who had transcended fragments, teh figure which Freud became as a convincing illustration of the treatment of neurosis and hysteria. Gravida became an icon for a science able to release patients from neuroses of which Jensen’s archeologist suffered was one of his early virtuosic case studies, based not on a patient, as Anna O, but framed the cases by which he would be known of obsessional neurosis that set for a therapeutic program–as if the case of Gradiva was a paradigm for the subsequent exemplary cases Freud produced that stood as models of sympathetic understanding. In each of the subsequent cases excavated the trauma to reveal restorative powers of remembering of repressed trauma that have left psychic scars the analyst uses sympathetic power to extricate the subject, Gradiva provided the fictional model for such an uncovery rooted it precisely in the ur-sight of archeological exploration, and a model for his own future studies of neurosis–Rat Man; Woolf Man; Schreber–as bravura analytic excavations of neurosis and pscyhosis. Freud located the excavation of a moment of transparency in dreams, but Jensen’s fantasia provided a literary model for narrating an uncovering of the unconscious, before his “ingenious” psychoanalysis of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci from paintings “with a beautiful simplicity and vigor, whatever one might think of [his] conclusions,” as Meyer Shapiro put it, to reach larger audiences for his theory of mind, written not as case studies on hysteria and as a neurologist, but as a man of letters. The power of Gradiva as a token to overcome buried trauma led it to be placed in view of patients as a token of psychoanalysis in Freud’s study in both Vienna and London.

Twenty-three years after he wrote about Jensen’s architect and Gravida, Freud relied on Löwy’s work to cast the city of ROme as akin to a material record of the unconscious–as if the two walked in the ancient Forum, when he returned to the excavation of Rome’s stratigraphy as a metaphor of mind. Löwy would provide Freud the archeological prints that enabled his “flight of fancy” to detail the physical plant of Rome in some detail by 1930, but it must be acknowledged Freud had not only often returned to Rome but done so after consulting recent archeological books that detailed its plant which he had collected in his Viennese library. If the mastery of ruins–a therapeutic art–was an art metaphorically illustrated by art, Freud illustrated mastery by transcendence of ruins of the past trauma. Freud relied on how archeological engravings revealed past layers of the city’s inhabitation to use its physical plant was also a paradigmatic site of excavation of pastness, organized by artists in challenging ways that must have seized Freud not only in contemporary archeological prints, but the uncovering of “deep structures” hidden beneath the earth. Freud promised a “discovery” of buried ruins waiting to be uncovered for the observer.

The promise is eerily akin to the promise Francesco Piranesi, Giovanni Battista’s son, had made of Pompeii’s topography, 1785-92, a decade after the first maps of the site were drawn from memory, several years after visiting the site with his father, with whom he collaborated on engraving. These prints extended his father’s trade in views of ancient Rome in a explicitly archeological direction of interpretation. It is hard to dislike Piranesi, but it is also hard to say if he was designing the plan of Rome as a budding archeologist, as an image that used sketches made by his father to stake out the achievement of which he was able through his craft, or as a revelation of the interpenetration of landscape, the antique, and the antiquities trade that defined eighteenth century Roman antiquarianism. Those famous engravings of the plan of the city of Pompeii captured the romance of the city where Hannold fled to find the image of movement of gait that sunk deep in his mind, by unearthing it, which he had miraculously unearthed by his pilgrimage to the new wonder of the Grand Tour. For Freud, however, who was obsessed or entranced by the mechanics of uncovering, unveiling, revealing, and voyeuristically observing, the site of Pompeii, where one can look into the private homes and where bodies were excavated that were lying on floors, frozen in the act of eating, sleeping, or writing in pain, the erotics of unveiling were were presented by Francisco and his father.

Francesco Piranesi, (1758-1810), Topografia delle fabriche scoperte nella città di Pompeii

The city that had been a sight of cultural formation from the Grand Tour was perhaps a substitute for the archeological excavations his hero Heinrich Schliemann began in 1873 of Troy–it confirmed Freud’s as foremost archeologist of the mind, a Schliemann of the unconscious who made his own archeological maps in word pictures. The very transhistorical map of Rome’s physical plant recalls nothing so much as an archeological plan–an image of the sequential stages of buildings reconstructed from past fragments that condenses a purview of the history of place for ready apprehension at a glance; the plan would indeed stand as a surrogate for the very absence of a pictorial rendering of the mind, assembling the material fragments of the city into a readily coherent pattern.

Excavations at Troy of Heinrich Schliemann and Dorpfeild, 1908

The reproduction of Gradiva, as an iconic image of a woman moving through space, became an icon of excavation, and of the coaxing out memories of desire in Freudian analysis of memories that emerged, or re-emerged, in the room of psychoanalysis, as an overcoming of traumatic primal scenes that would otherwise remain a repressed past. The faux bas relief, a reproduction in plaster widely obtained in Rome, emerged a central piece of furniture in the psychoanalytic study, as well as validation of Freud’s own analytic skill; as a transformation of the fragmentary sculptures in the Museo Chiaramonti, where it hung on the wall, the reproduction that he bought in Rome or had sent to him in Vienna came to occupy a prominent place in the psychoanalyst’s office, directly at the foot of the couch and in the patient’s line of sight, as a surrogate for the procession through past trauma that the analyst might conduct.

The framed copy that arrived was not a fragment, of course, but an image that framed the subject of the walking woman as a subject of meditation, and advancement through time. Freud had arrived in Rome to acquire a copy of the bas-relief when traveling to Rome alone in 1907, visiting museums and encountering the day before he left the relief in the Vatican’s Museo Chiaramonti, probably while writing his analysis of Jensen’s fantasia of a young archeologist who traveled to Pompeii in hopes to encounter the woman who appeared in his dreams as a vision, and captivates his attention as soon as he encounters her in the ruins that leads him to abandon the field of archeology. As a relief on the wall of Hanold’s study served as the prompt in Jensen’s story, Freud would purchase his own reproduction to be displayed beside the psychotherapeutic couch, joining the antiquities he used as prompts for his patients–was it among the “small purchases” he told his wife he was in the course of negotiating before leaving? The iconic image of redemption from neurosis that Jensen’s archeologist experienced in watching a real woman emerge from the ruins of Pompeii who he had seen in dreams, leads him out of his paralyzing neurosis, to move through space as freely as the Hora who advances, the lifted toes of her left foot about to leave the ground–the name “Gradiva,” as if ‘Girl Splendid in Walking,’ is named for the associations of her movement through space, but might well be elided with her unique powers of movement through time, as if between epochs or strata–and leads him to see the embodied evidence of her grace in walking as she appears before him in the ruins, and the archeologist’s very perception of the iconic statue he places in Pompeii appears inextricably haunted by his desire.

The appearance of the Gradiva-or the copy that Freud kept in his office–became an icon for the establishment of psychiatry as a science, as indeed his essay on Gravida became a sor of assertion of the dignity of the field of inquiry akin to archeology. For as Freud was attracted to diagnose the novella as an overcoming of hysteria–as if the insight of the story offered a model of skillful “reconstruction” of a past by analogy to the established secular field–it was a part of the furniture of the office of the Freudian analyst to stimulate recovery of repressed memories of the unconscious. The metaphor of archeology confirmed the materiality of surviving memory traces of objects of desire to an artistic reconstruction of desire, using the excavation of objects in the field of archaeology to give epistemic status an archeology as an excavation of individual objects of desire, and sublimation of neurotic feelings into a present love–the reproduction isolated and iconically focussed attention on an the image of the female figure advancing, unlike the original. The framing of a woman moving through space–healing the viewer from being frozen or immobilized in neurosis–made the object an emblem of mystically moving through–and to lead the patient through–layers of time, moving to the present, uncannily inherited from the concept of the original Greek horae marking time on which it was based. Placed at the foot of the couch and in the line of sight of Freud’s patient, the icon was designed to provoke performing a therapeutic transit through strata of personal memories. Rather than the original Greek statue of the horae, figuring the procession of time, the individual reproduction isolated an enframed individual female figure advancing as a prompt to drill into personal consciousness, foreign from the collective procession of the marble copy: isolated to accentuate a determined progress of a woman decisively advancing with determination, Gradiva is removed from a context of the progression of figures of time, but acquired an individual intent absent from the relief.

For Freud took the image of individual advance in therapy not as a collective act or social rite, but a personal transformation. His association of the imagined visitation of the embodied statue in Pompeii’s ruins was especially powerful and iconic as a therapeutic process of moving through time. The story of Gradiva attracted Freud as it detailed the erotics of an imaginary encounter in archeological ruins as an occasion of insight into attachment, as if the ruins of memory by which the individual patient was enmeshed might provoke a similar occasion of insight. Freud championed the novella as paradigmatic as a moment of psychic insight that he felt was powerful enough to be apprehended by others: Jensen’s account of the temporal disorientation before ruins for an imagined archeologist was taken as autobiographical by Freud, who analyzed the story without talking to its author, not realizing Jensen’s fantasy was not based on an image Jensen had seen in situ–but provoked by a reproduction. Freud treated the relief as a confirmation of the power of metaphorically reconstructing memories in strata of the mind Freud saw as “primordial states of mind which have long been overlaid” (1929), and placed his own reproduction over his patients’ couch as if a shingle for the profession, and a sublime sandwich board and analytic promise of coming forth from trauma.

When Freud pursued the extended metaphor of archeological excavation of Rome’s physical plant twenty years later in Civilization and its Discontents, Rome materialized the precise localization of foundational individual memories. As Freud had converted his discussion of psychic structures to dramatic conflicts in ancient plays–Oedipus; Electra–was not Rome recognizable to secular Vienna, a compelling image of the cultural status of the very project of analysis? Rome was an intense object of personal fascination for Freud, who treasured an expansive collection of antiquities he often asked his patients to examine to prompt discussions. But he had mentioned Rome in such a detailed flight of fancy that were almost an erotics of contact with multiple layers of the past that could never be able to be clearly represented or delineated in a map, but which the stratigraphic images of spatially overlapping structures served to illustrate. The discussion of the pagan and Christian temples overlaid in Rome’s physical plant transcended religious dogma, and to some extent followed Freud’s personal doubts about existence of a timeless sense of religion–and his resistance to the mysticism implicit in Romaine Rolland’s notion of an “oceanic” feeling: for his part, Freud felt it hard to process that Rolland felt him to have insufficiently appreciated religion beyond the individual, even as he told his treasured friend of the “conflict between our instinctual nature and the demands made on us by civilization.” Freud called faith foreign to “my own blend . . . of Hellenic love of proportion, Jewish sobriety, and philistine timidity,” but may have elevated Rome as a paradigmatic city of ruins and trauma, to replace a deeper, if less accessible or articulated image of the uncovering of past trauma of Jerusalem more familiar to his ancestors,– and more primal, perhaps, to Freud himself, even if he preferred Troy, Pompeii, or Rome. Yet in contrasting the crisp delineation of the ruins of Rome as unlike to an “expansive” oceanic religious impulse, did Freud offer readers the recognized topography of Rome’s temples that substituted for the lamination of ages in Jerusalem’s destruction?

Historical Maps and Atlases
Jerusalem, City Map (London, 1911)

Was the archeological discovery of Pompeii or Rome a powerful substitution for the lamination of ages in the different Temples of Jerusalem that were known by his parents? Freud returned in the brief pages on the mapping of the Eternal City across time to its own ancient temples–Jupiter Capitolinus, the temple to Minerva built under the medieval church Christianized in the eight century as an act of uncovering of a physical still tangible past. The comparison to Rome surely fit his attachment to plots, stories, and dramas outside of the Jewish tradition of his parents, and indeed his Jewish family, but echoed archeological maps of the ages of the First Temple. Indeed, the centrality of ancient temples to the Gods in Rome would have been deeply familiar to the sacred archeology of the Bibel-Atlas (Berlin 1858) and the purification of the sacred image of Rome as a new, secularized Jerusalem, whose ruins were less tied to religious relics or sacred history, but included the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and the Temple of S. Maria of Minerva, and the pagan temple over which it was built, as a recapitulation of the layers of sacred geography in Jerusalem that was associated with early mid-century plans of a historical Temple of Solomon, a submerged referent of Freud’s spatio-temporal fantasy of wandering among and distinguishing the historical ages in Rome’s urban plan, as a privileged observer amidst memory traces that survived like ruins in an individual’s mind.

File:Salomonischer Tempel.jpg
Bibel-Atlas. Berlin 1858
 Cassell’s Universal History (1888)

Freud focussed for his Viennese audience on the epistemic transport offered by the maps of the Baedeker, however. It was a visual guide to a foreign and fascinating space, affording a mobile view of surroundings in detail that allowed the visitor to gain a level of information and be informed both as a distillation of historical knowledge and a part of individual bildung, or cultural formation, and a guide to spatial travel able to orient one to a landscape as a whole. If Freud used the Baedeker as a guide to orient himself to the ruins of Roman archeology on his several visits to Rome, Venice, Naples and Florence, he showed striking disdain for philosophers who found it necessary to approach life along set precepts or frameworks as “finding the travels through life unable to be fully realized save by a Baedeker that provided the necessary points of reference on all its aspects,” as if the Baedeker offered a competing method for his own basis of the excavation of truth and meaning within the human mind. Freud imagined to his collaborator Wilhelm Fleiss, as if in jest, in June, 1900 that a plaque of historical commemoration analogous to those seen in Rome or Jerusalem might in the future mark his Bellevue house–“In this house on July 24, 1895 the Secrets of Dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigmund Freud“–confessing, in barely concealed dismay, “So far the chances seem rather slim.”

Freud would no doubt have been pleasantly surprised at the monumentality his writings had gained in the late twentieth century, now marked by the very passage of the letter in bronze, marking the site where he began to write the Interpretation of Dreams, as if a new Moses to whom the truths in the Holiest of Holies were revealed–

Commemorative plaque marking the spot where Freud began writing 'The Interpretation of Dreams'
Grounds of Freud House, Bellevue, Austria

–akin to the imagined ability of entrance to the lost image of the Temple of Solomon that whose center lay the Holiest of Holies itself, the deep interior of the mind that would be accessed only by passing through the Court of Hight Priests, that had been the most recent transcription of the image of a lost wisdom of the ancient world from the German Renaissance. Thesecularization of this vision of the Temple, however, unlike the role it held in the Jewish tradition, provided a basis that Freud might transfer to Rome to describe with the level of cultural bildung and training that he might present to his readers as a sign of his secular sophistication as an antiquarian scholar.

Templum Saolomonis in Jerusalem, Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Freud resisted the notion of a guide to monuments a Baedeker would impose. He resisted the authority of a guide as an authoritative programmatic Lebensführer, in ways that may explain his ambivalent dalliance with the map of multiple ages of an ancient city–as if such a map might exist!–as a productive metaphor for consciousness and memory in Civilization and its Discontents (1930; first composed 1929), a treatise that attempted to the “organic repression” of education and learning that had led to the violence of the First World Wars, a s if education, bildung, and the psychic “dams” had given way to bae impulses that had over-run them, an image for which the destruction of Rome’s previous ages of Republicanism-and indeed “civilization”–were in the end overthrown, a history whose movements Freud condenses in alarmingly telegraphic manner as he invites readers to survey the topographic transpoformation of the settlement of the Septimontium, the foundation of the Republic, and Caesars and Aurelian emperors, a complex political history of transformation and tensions that mental organism. If Freud assured his readers he understands “how far we are from representing mental life in pictorial terms” that might be desired, as by a diagram, he preferred the register of the cartographic as preferable over several powerful pages; in astounding detail for a book with little archaelogical concerns, but in ways that seem to depend on the cultivation of his readers wihtin a tradition of western civilization, Freud surveyed in his head transformations from Roma Quadrata as if it “hardly ever suffered the visitations of an enemy” by trauma or inflammations, but might retain its intactness, even if only in a virtual manner, so. that the informed viewer could use a Baedecker to grasp the co-existance of its “long and copious past,” not only “to point out the sites where the temples and public sites of earlier eras once stood,” as in the present Rome, their places now occupied only by ruins, but locate the ancient sites now buried underground or beneath modern buildings, by sheer force of mental comprehension.

Through the conceit of such a map, he is able to traverse time and master place. The suggestion of the construction of such an improbably map of multiple dimensions is raised in detail before it was discarded out of hand rather abruptly, as if to affirm the importance that he would place in the therapeutic relation of exploring the past, rather than a view only of specific monuments. But the struggle for Freud to liberate himself of the map of Rome’s ruins, and to learn more by a method of investigation that depends on the immersion of analysand on points of orientation and active exploration–suggest a far more dialectic engagement with the tourist map than the prescriptive reading of maps he associates with philosophers who adhere to one single worldview, rather than react to their surroundings to better understand their psychical landscapes without coming to them with preconceptions. While these guides demand a post of their own, this post turns attention to how the media of mapping Rome gained particular sensitivity, as preserving access to the past, and of orienting viewers to a a panorama of presence no longer present to observers, as do most all archeological maps of Rome.  

Yet the metaphor of the map offered a unique sense of access–or the image of access–to an elusive past, and not only for Freud. Freud took the metaphor of the uncovering of ruins that remained in the wake of huge trauma or organic injury and inflammation, imagining the ability to be able to reconstruct the Apollonian objective view on place that might seem disorienting at first by thier nature. He prompted the analyst and indeed the reader to take up the bait at Freud’s gambit of a decoding of the preserved traces of the past–“memory traces”–that he believed were lodged and able to be excavated in some form, or conceived as concealed atavistic structures, in the human mind, traces of past experiences that still had a vital role in the present-day, and imagine the central site of meaning that lay at the origins of other maps.

1. By considering the mapping of Rome as datamaps, and the presence that they encode, one almost seems obligated to begin from what may be the primary image–if not primal image–of the way that all roads lead to Rome, or are claimed to run there.    If it is a truism that “all roads lead to Rome,” that preserves a deeply ahistorical sense of the centrality of the city for much of the middle ages, when the statement gained currency, the possibly medieval rendering of the ancient “Peutinger Map” or Tabula Peutingerianawhich presents Rome at the center of an ancient road network–across the empire–and was suggested to be  copied from the form of a large frieze on a building, but survives in a paper copy that quite distinctively distorted the landscape to focus all roads along the elongated peninsula, whose borders reduced oceans to strips to foreground its road network, as an enthroned image of Rome.

Routes remain perhaps the oldest maps. Rarely are they understood as networks. The trick of topographic rendering of privileging the disposition of roads and their distances–measured in local units, but spanning the Empire–do not radiate, but extend laterally across mapped space.  The form of the antique led to the eager the recovery of the prized Peutinger map of the peninsula, surviving in the copy of the Tabula Peutingeriana, that preserved, showing east-west routes at greater scale than north-south in dimensions of a marble frieze, more than a sheet of paper; its collapsing of a collection of routes inscribed into a peninsula as a seat of empire, placing the enthroned figure of Rome holding a globe at the head of a cursus publicus–as if to demonstrate how all roads lead Rome-ward or, more accurately, from Rome, emphasizing its legibility by replicating the left-to-right reading of space.

Duvuded ubti Grurds.png

–as if in a comprehensive representation the cursus, where continuity is less present than the network, but the network visualized by making present criteria of measurement embedded in the map itself.

Rather than orienting readers by showing Rome as the center of a web of transit, that has its own life and coherence, the map’s oddly compressed format seems to have the imprint of the material place that it held, fittingly, as a record of the cursus publicus, on a frieze, if so probably etched in marble, showing the prominence of Rome and its port of Ostia not at the center of the peninsula, but in the enthroned figure.  Rome occupies a place at the start and head of its cursus publicus, perhaps as a remnant of a global map prepared in Augustan Rome, which in the surviving thirteenth century copy digests data that may derive from the Agrippa map, but embodies it in the form of a marble frieze.

Transferred and kept on a sheet of paper since when the humanist Conrad Celtis discovered in in France, and presented humanist Konrad Peutinger with the treasured cartographic image in a surviving copy, the map was thought to be a fragment of a global map organized by Roman roads.  It has been attempted to be returned to its material context in many alternative historical settings–hypotheses including Carolingian origins or, a marble frieze, to historicize the audiences it addressed–but in ways that preserve the centrality of its physical medium.  

The problem of seeing the along map of the world, and the curiously elongated image of Italy, have only recently been revised, as ways that re-examine the humanist status of the map as an argument about space.  But if the material form of the map has provoked repeated reflection, as much as the transparent reflection of spatial data by which our own data-driven world is increasingly obsessed, it reminds us of the material basis of the maxim of all roads leading to Rome, which the depiction of the cursus publicus so clearly embodied.


But the image of all roads leading to–or from–Rome is not, perhaps, the map that best expresses the place that the city has held in the humanist imagination.  If the Tabula Peutingeriana offers an interrupted record of all roads leading to Rome continues to captivate, the presence of the ancient in Rome suggested a deeper problem of temporal mapping that data cannot capture, in part because it so relentlessly adopts and employs a present-day form of mapping to chart an elusive past.  

The history with which the presence of maps that continued to process the antique in Rome certainly led to the fascination of uncovering the road network of the city.  The presence of the elusive but ever-present antique in the city laid a basis for curiosity of times of travel in mapping the Empire, the maps of travel times on its system of roads is only one level of the building of Rome.  Although the city’s status at the center of the empire provided a source of fascination, and a promise of classical recovery, to the humanist collector, the presence of ancient roadworks in the Tabula mirror the continued fascination with mapping presence of the antique in Rome, that have been a longstanding subject of fascination.  While Rome remained the center of the Tabula, on the far left of the three strip maps of the peninsula compressed to a single sheet, the rendering of the peninsula’s network of roads omits the deep presence of the city’s ruins–the “city within the city”–in Rome, and the extent to which the mapping of that presence contributed to how Rome was seen.

Is deeper excavation of the spatial perception of those roads, and indeed of the inhabitation of the twelve via that radiate from Rome’s walls in such a symmetrical manner–the via Salaria, via Nomentana, via Tyburtina, via Latina, via Appia–even an adequate record of one’s attachment to its pasts?


Rather than viewing Rome as a center of transit, a humanist mapping of the city might entail map the sense of presence of the antique by which the city has long been appreciated and understood.  The mapping of the presence of the past in Rome runs against the grain of data-driven visualizations, but might bring us to define the compelling presence of the antique in the city, challenging the notion of its primacy in a network of communication, to trace the place of the antique in the imagination of the city, as much as treating its sense of its place being impermanent.  

Indeed, the presence of the city on any map must begin from the presence of the antique in the city, and the manner that maps of Rome shape our experience of the city–and serve to shape our sense of the distinction of Rome as a site within our imagination, and our sense of space. If the conceit that all roads lead to Rome has long and continues to occupy a significant space in our mental imaginary, as well as the European highway system–


Roads to Rome

–traveling or journeying to Rome offers a limited orientation to the rich humanist history of the mapping of its space, or even of the space of the Roman Empire, if the mapping of Rome omits any traces of its historical inhabitation, or the palpable presence of its ruins.  These ruins, and their surviving remnants, drew many to Rome since the Renaissance, and has provided one of the most basic–if primal–forms of mapping the historical past, and of seeing evidence of the living presence of the concrete.  Attracted by the multiple presences that seem to coexist within Rome’s space, in ways an archeological map cannot do complete justice, as knows any visitor challenged to grasp and orient themselves to the abundance of its underlying pasts present in its ruins.  

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Filed under ancient Rome, cultural memory, data visualizations, historical landscape, memory

Urban Modernity, RIP: Mapping Marshall Berman Mapping Modernism

The meaning of place seems especially difficult to retain in an age of increased mobility, when information flows are increasingly removed from any site, and offer multiplying perspectives.  The work of cultural critic Marshall Berman (1940-2013) provides a clear eyed way to recuperate modernism through the inhabitation of place.  Berman, a long-time New York City resident and echt urbanite, created rich qualitative maps of literary modernism that rhapsodized cities as places–as privileged and vital sites of generating meanings that were rooted in place.  Even after his recent death, it’s hard not to be struck by the vitality that he mapped as rooted in cities, and whose existence he never stopped reminding us about and celebrating.  A native New Yorker, Berman wrote from committed engagement in New York’s space and shifting fluidity, and in his works mapped the sense of fluidity or perpetual permutability of urban life.  He showed us, in so doing, that maps are not only imposition from above, or Olympian views, but can map daily encounters best registered on city streets.  Even when I best knew Marshall in the 1970s and 1980s, he was one of the inveterate street-walker of the Upper West Side and Broadway who exulted in most everything he noticed on the street.  Marshall maybe increasingly became an inveterate street-walker who took pleasure in public space, and enjoyed claiming for himself a spot on the street, finding a sort of release and liberation on the night-time sidewalks, in Times Square, or at the diners where he so loved to sit.

In retrospect, I imagine his championing of the street’s energy came from the magnum opus he was then completing, All That is Solid Melts into Air (1982)–but that his love of street-life also shaped his voracious exploration of the space of literary modernism through the act of being in public.  For Berman quickly recognized that the depersonalization of urban life was not only the trauma and drama of modernity, but, transfigured by literary expression, also a privileged site for individuality.  In ways that are still resonant, his generous mapping of the modernity among cities extended from the city that he loved to the modern urbanism.  R.I.P., Marshall.

Berman’s sudden and unexpected death in a booth at the Metro Diner, at the heart of the Manhattan Upper West Side, can’t but provoke a reflection on his relation to the concept of urban space, from the sense of public space he lived and explored relentlessly as an observer and city-dweller to that which he read so very widely to excavate and explore with a canny sense of the personalized human geography.  For Marshall loved the lived urban environments and continued a life-long fascination he had with the living nature of a streetscape illuminated by electric lights, as if an ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef, whose deeply modern possibilities he always felt beckoned and invited and which he was eager to explore.  Marshall’s recent death has prompted several emotional reflections that note the inescapably autobiographical aspects of his work, some of which he would himself, surely, be the first not to hesitate to note.  Marshall’s work was, first and foremost, that of a public intellectual who bridged personal criticism with urbanism.  For Berman often described his engaged writing on modernism and modernist projects of urban space as part of the creative projects of his life.

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November 22, 2013 · 4:02 pm