Weaving Truth: Essays on Language and the Female in Greek Thought

  Bergren, Ann. 2008. Weaving Truth: Essays on Language and the Female in Greek Thought. Hellenic Studies Series 19. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_BergrenA.Weaving_Truth.2008.

9. Architecture     Gender     Philosophy [1]

εἷς, δύο, τρεῖς·

One, two, three.

Timaeus 17a1

At the same conference, Catherine Ingraham presented a paper exploring the “rage” of architecture at the prospect of domination by language. She concluded:

It seems to me interesting that the plan of domination supposedly exercised by language over architecture is actually resonating architecture’s own plan of domination. I have no proposals for the horror of architecture for philosophy. [But] it could be that philosophy recognizes in architecture its own most frightening realization, which is that in some way architecture is the aestheticization of the pornography of power.

These two remarks, Eisenman’s and Ingraham’s, seemed to me to be related in reflecting a “female” status of architecture vis-à-vis philosophy. I commented:

Apropos of “architecture as the aestheticization of the pornography of power” I asked myself whether power is or could be a pornê (probably you all know that a pornê is a prostitute). And that reminded me of a thought I had in the morning when Peter was talking about the resistance of Derrida to the fact that your architecture won’t stay put, once it is placed – that you want to move the idea of a garden. It reminds me of the whole problem of the female in general – that she must be mobile, she must be exchangeable in order for family and children and homes to take place. But the problem about her {243|244} is that she is not a “proper” wife for sure. Because by virtue of her movability, she also could move herself and she could be like a pornê. A pornê is the opposite of the proper wife – a pornê wouldn’t stay put, once exchanged – this is Greek thinking about females. So the ambiguity with which architecture is treated is perhaps an essential and necessary one. Because you must be movable. Yet that is just what nobody can allow you – once you’re placed, you have to stay put. I think it’s the deconstructive activity that permits this kind of perception. So in a way deconstruction has made a contribution to you and you’re perhaps the best example of it in that you show that architecture is a writing of power as a pornê – as a necessary, productive medium that must be mobile. And yet once put in place, the other can’t allow the mobility. Plus, then, it also goes in the other direction. You seemed slightly angry at deconstruction for not providing a model and a foundation for you. So that there was a way in which you needed deconstruction and language to be a woman for you also.

After this comment in which I had, I thought, said something positive about Eisenman’s dislocating architecture and about architecture as a graphê – which means both “writing” and “drawing” in Greek – a graphê of the power of the pornê, I was later complimented by an eminent architect present on having “wiped up the floor” with Eisenman. This interpretation of the female as a category of blame coheres with a second impulse toward exploring the relation among architecture and gender and philosophy.

Equally universal (so far) is the fact that gender difference is subjective in both senses of the term, and thereby rhetorical and political. The difference gender makes may be seen in a linguistic phenomenon of which gender is a chief example, if not the primary model and motivation. This is the phenomenon of marked vs. unmarked categories. It is the “pervasive tendency in human thinking” to take one of the members of an opposition as unmarked so that it represents either the entire oppositional group (the “zero-interpretation”) or the opposite of the other, marked member (the “minus-interpretation”) or in some contexts, even the marked category itself (the “plus-interpretation”). [12] The classic example of the procedure is gender terminology itself. For example, in English the marked term “woman” indicates the presence of the “marked” property “female,” while the unmarked term “man” is used to indicate both the “human being” in general (the “zero-interpretation”), the absence of “female” in the sense of “male human being” (the “minus-interpretation”), [13] and sometimes even “female human being” (the “plus-interpretation”). [14] This mode of differentiation permeates both the linguistic and the non-linguistic spheres. For example, pants or trousers (in most Western cultures) are unmarked, skirts are marked. In logical symbolism, p is used ambiguously either as the proposition abstracted from its truth value or as the assertion of the truth of the proposition p. And it is the term “truth value” itself, derived from the unmarked member, not “falsity value,” that designates the “over-all category which has truth and falsity as members.” [15]

Whether or not it is gender differentiation that provides the model for marked vs. unmarked thought, gender differentiation universally (so far) takes the form of a marked vs. unmarked distinction. By virtue of its subjectivity, however, this form of differentiation is not univocal. In the manner of {245|246} linguistic shifters, a group may occupy both the marked and the unmarked condition, depending upon the other group with which it is being compared. [18] In English, for example, “female” may be marked in relation to “male,” while “nurse” is unmarked, requiring the adjectival supplement in “male nurse” to designate a non-female. [19] Similarly, in the sphere of architecture – to turn back toward the subject at hand – architecture could be marked as “female” in relation to philosophy (and again, I do not intend “female” as a term of abuse or degradation), while architectural theory was marked in relation to practice, which in turn might function as marked “female” in relation to the economic and political power of the client. And, moreover, there is nothing essentially (or “ontologically”) female about the biological sex to which the marked “female” position is assigned. Even in the case of grammatical gender, an especially pervasive instance in which the twin tools of gender and the marked/unmarked opposition coincide, we find one counter-instance to the otherwise universally unmarked status of the masculine: in the Iroquoian languages it is the feminine gender that is unmarked. [20] What is not yet attested in human society is a gender differentiation which does not take the marked/unmarked form.

Is this model of gender at work between the architecture and the philosophy of the Choral Works? To pursue this question I turn to what programs the program of the Choral Works, the female and the architect before philosophy and then in Platonic texts, culminating in the khôra of the Timaeus.

Female and Architect: Before Philosophy

Early Greek epic attributes to the female in the figure of the Muses what will later become the object of philosophical desire – transcendent knowledge, grounded in presence and sight, that makes possible the speaking and the imitating of truth. The Muses are called upon to impart their truth to the male poet: {246|247}

Speak to me now, Muses, with homes on Olympus, for you are
goddesses, you are present beside, you know (literally, “have seen”) all things,
but we hear only the report and know nothing.

Iliad II 484–486

The Muses speak the truth, understood as the re-presentation in its totality (here in Iliad II, the total catalogue of Greek ships) of a past presence and sight in any present place. But because they know all, the Muses can speak not only the truth, but also falsehood, as they reveal in handing over the staff of inspiration to the male poet Hesiod:

We know how to say many false things (ψεύδεα) like to (ὁμοῖα) real things (ἐτύμοισιν),
and we know, whenever we want, how to utter true things (ἀληθέα).

Theogony 27–28

By virtue of their transcendent knowledge of the truth, the Muses can imitate it perfectly. And since they can do so whenever they want to, who can tell whether even this very instance of their speech is a case of the truth or of its perfect imitation? Only those who know what the Muses “want” in this situation – Was will das Weib? – can know for sure. The rhetorical status of the Muses’ speech cannot be determined by anyone outside themselves (or their intention), since it depends upon a position of epistemological mastery and individual desire that no man, not even the male “author” of the text, can share. [
22] This speech of the Muses remains an irresolvable ambiguity of truth and its figuration.

This son is Zeus. As “father of men and gods” and consummate ruler of the cosmos, Zeus pre-figures both the lawgiver of the Laws and the Demiurge of the Timaeus. His policy in relation to mêtis becomes a paradigm, a sort of Form, in which later philosophy and politics attempt to participate. Zeus’ first act upon securing his kingship from his father is to turn the mêtis stone into a monument. In a “classic” instance of political sovereignty as architectural trope and of architecture as political symbolization, Zeus “sets up” the mêtis stone – the formal substitute for himself – “to be a σῆμα ‘sign’ and θαῦμα ‘marvel’ to mortals” (Theogony 500). The stone is a sign of Zeus and his rule as a working and work of mêtis, now fixed in the ground. His next move is to mirror that external fixation of mêtis by containing it within himself.

By an anachronism essential to the myth of valid sovereignty (one that is repeated in the institution of architecture in the Timaeus), Zeus now uses mêtis to acquire mêtis, as it were, for the first time. [31] The scene of his acquisition is marriage. For in early Greek mêtis is not just a common noun. It also designates a goddess, Metis, whom Zeus takes as his first wife. Their marriage {248|249} is an architectural competition, pitting her mêtis against his in a contest of material and verbal transformation with her embodiment as the prize. [32] They first struggle over entrance into her body. Although “she turned into many forms to avoid being joined with him,” [33] Zeus manages to “mix” with her in sexual intercourse (a union we shall see paralleled in the “mixture” of the demiurgic intelligence and wandering necessity as causes in the Timaeus). Next they compete in body making. Metis becomes pregnant, and it is foretold that she will bear a son who will supplant his father. But before she can give birth to a child, he “utterly deceived her wits by a trick of cunning words” and swallows her, “so that the goddess might devise evil and good in his interest alone” (Theogony 889–890, 900). Having “incorporated” the power necessary for the maintenance of his regime, it is now Zeus himself who gives birth to her child, the goddess Athena, from his own head. On the divine level, at least, the unmarked “male” is now able to bear the “plus-interpretation” of a mêtis–man. This is the divine model, the Formal ideal. But the heads of the human household cannot contain their protean property so successfully.

The king, a mêtis–man, too, like his exemplar Zeus, retaliates by setting a trap of his own in which Agamedes is caught. Agamedes then asks his brother Trophonius to cut off his head to prevent his being recognized. After obliging his brother, Trophonius flees to a place where he is swallowed up by the earth and becomes an oracular hero. After decapitating his alter-ego so that his identity cannot be determined – a feminization by castration – the architect becomes, like the Muses, a voice of transcendent truth.

This homology between the female and the architect in early Greek thought is inherited by Platonic philosophy.

Female and Architect: Platonic Philosophy

As with the texts of Freud, what Plato says explicitly about women offers only a partial account of the place and function of the female gender in his philosophy. The overt strategy of the Republic is to expel the female through silence (a philosophizing of Tereus’ tactic) and to minimize the marked valence of any women it finds necessary to retain. The holding of Guardian wives and children in common and the engineering of eugenic reproduction (under the guise of random coupling) advocated for the ideal state in the Republic attempts to eliminate marriage exchange and the father-ruled family, the very agents of the female’s uncontrollable mobility and transcendent knowledge. [53] Such practice would collapse gender difference into gender singularity and leave women (Guardian women, at least) as unmarkedly male as possible, [54] a social homogenization radically in keeping with a system of thought in which the relation of truth is that of the ὅμοιον, the “like, same, equal to itself.” [55] Both the force and the failure of this repression of the female mark are evident in the obscure but crucial point de capiton [56] where the Muses are invoked to utter the origin of the inevitable degeneration of the ideal state. [57] For it is these females with their transcendent knowledge in the sphere of reproduction who know the ἀρχή “origin” of why the ideal state will fall, and of why, therefore, the entire edifice of the Republic can never be maintained in the real world. Outside of such lapses, however, it is not in overt reference to the female, but in the figure of the dêmiourgos that Platonic philosophy appropriates the traditional structure and function of the female gender.

Part I (Timaeus 29d7–47e2)

τὰ διὰ νοῦ δεδημιουργήμενα “things built by the artisanship of intelligence”

Part II (Timaeus 47e2–69a5)

τὰ δι᾽ ἀνάγκης γιγνόμενα “things coming into being through necessity”

Part I (29d7–47e2): “things built by the artisanship of intelligence”

The mark of the female is born in the Timaeus by the male dêmiourgos, elevated to a figurehead for the philosophic god. And what of mortal artisans? Like goddesses, the Timaeus makes no mention of them. For the place of the human architect in the Platonic economy, it is necessary to look away from the Timaeus briefly to the Laws before returning to the Timaeus for Part II of its creation myth.

In the Laws, male artisans are marked as “female” in politico-economic status and in spatial placement. In the projected city of Magnesia all citizens are male landowners and no citizen is permitted to be a dêmiourgos (Laws 846d1–3). As in the myth of the architect Trophonius, therefore, the artisan is barred from acquiring the economic and political power of the male. The stationing of the artisans within the urban plan reflects their feminized role {254|255} (Laws 848c7–849a2). In the plan as reconstructed by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, the polis is a circle divided into twelve sections, one for each tribe, with the center forming a thirteenth part, an Acropolis occupied by the gods. [75] [Figure 1. Plan of the city of Plato’s Laws.] Each citizen owns a portion of the two concentric zones that form the city (the “urban center”) and the surrounding country (the “rings of cultivated land”). The citizens live in the city, while the remaining territory is occupied by the artisans, segregated and divided into thirteen groups – one in a suburban periphery of the city, shaded in the plan, and the other twelve in villages located at the midpoint of each country district. [76] By this division and localization of the artisans, the plan attempts to control a spatial ambiguity parallel to that of the female in marriage exchange. [77] Like the woman, the dêmiourgos must be mobile, in the sense of being unlinked to any piece of land by ownership that would constitute citizenship. [78] But to be of regular and reliable use, he must also be put in a place and must stay put.

Bergren chap9 fig1

Read together with the Timaeus, this subordination of the “real” dêmiourgos of the Laws indicates that in the economy of Platonic thought, the making of philosophy architectural in the figure of the cosmic Demiurge results in the feminization of the artisan himself in the economic and political sphere. In the context of intellectual or political creativity, the unmarked male assumes the ambiguous “plus-interpretation” of signaling the female mark itself and thus requiring, in order to retain some diacritical difference, a re-marking of the female and of the male who creates not in mind or in law, but in matter. Each is re-marked with and as a female lack. In this negative incision, however, there re-appears in both the artisan of the Laws and the female principle of the Timaeus the imprint of the positive “female” mark.

The case of the female in the Timaeus is similar, but more complicated. In the Timaeus she returns as ἀνάγκη “necessity” and khôra “place, space” – each a principle of movement that must be controlled. These ontologically problematical powers are first described in Part II of the “likely story” of creation, when hetero-erotic rivalry supplements the hom(m)o-/auto-erotic procreation of the same. Part I of this creation myth, in which the demiurgic νοῦς “intelligence” fathered alone phenomenal replicas of intelligible forms (τὰ διὰ {255|256} νοῦ δεδημιουργήμενα “things built by the artisanship of intelligence) (Timaeus 47e4), concealed what we learn about in Part II, a concomitant family drama founded upon an uneasy intercourse. The architecture of pure paternity sheltered what was always already within the cosmic oἶκος “household” – an unstable erotic hierarchy with νοῦς on top.

Part II (47e2–69a5): “things coming into being through necessity”

Contrary to the impression created at the start of Part I, the world was not created with the Demiurgic νοῦς “intelligence” as its sole αἴτιον “cause” (Timaeus 28a4–5). Just as Zeus “mixed” in sexual intercourse with Metis in order to “incorporate” the power necessary to maintain his rule, so the cosmos was “born” as a “constructed mixture” of two causes – both νοῦς “intelligence” and ἀνάγκη “necessity”:

For the becoming (γένεσις) of this cosmos was engendered (ἐγεννήθη) by having been mixed (μεμειγμένη) from the construction (ἐξ συστάσεως) of both necessity (ἀνάγκης) and intelligence (νοῦ).

Timaeus 47e5–48a2

Embodied in this edifying intercourse is a political hierarchy, itself supported by romance, as νοῦς “intelligence” is said to “rule” (ἄρχοντος) necessity by “persuasion” (τῷ πείθειν) (Timaeus 48a2) – the mark of successful rhetoric not only in political, but also in erotic contests. [
81] This structure of conjugal subordination is the architectural principle and the principal architecture of the universe: [82]

Timaeus 48a4–5

At stake in this containment of ἀνάγκη “necessity” within an oἶκος “household” of persuaded submission is the regulation of her movement. For ἀνάγκη “necessity” is the πλανωμένη αἰτία “wandering cause” – both the cause of wandering and the cause that wanders (Timaeus 48a7), [
84] just as the body “wanders” in the six directions (Timaeus 43b4), [85] as symptoms “wander” in the body (Timaeus 47c3–4, 86e7, 88e2), as the woman’s womb “wanders” (πλανώμενον) all over her body when left “fruitless” (ἄκαρπον) for a long time (Timaeus 91b7–c4), and as the sophists “wander” (πλανητόν, Timaeus {256|257} 19e4-5) from city to city, without any home of their own. In their constructive intercourse, νοῦς “intelligence” governs this necessary movement, for he persuades ἀνάγκη “necessity” “to move (ἄγειν) most things (τὰ πλεῖστα) that come into being to what is best (ἐπὶ τὸ βέλτιστον)” (Timaeus 48a2–3).

To be “truly” true, any account of cosmic architecture must be an icon of this intermingling of causes, a narrative mixture of the cosmic mixture:

If anyone, therefore, is going to say truly (ὄντως) how the world was born by these principles, it is necessary to mix (μεικτέον) also the category (εἶδος) of the wandering cause – in what way it is its nature (πέφυκεν) to cause movement (φέρειν).

Timaeus 48a5–7

As the cosmic “mixture” (μεμειγμένη) results from the “con-struction” (ἐξ συστάσεως) – the “standing together” – of the two causes, “intelligence” and “necessity,” so its narrative icon results from a textual juxtaposition of these two agencies: following “things built by the artisanship of intelligence” (τὰ διὰ νοῦ δεδημιουργήμενα), that is, Part I of Timaeus’ account, “it is necessary to place beside in the story” (τῷ λόγῳ παραθέσθαι) “things that come into being through necessity” (τὰ δι᾽ ἀνάγκης γιγνόμενα), that is, Part II (Timaeus 47e4–5). And as it is the nature of ἀνάγκη “necessity” to “cause movement,” so its logical necessity entails a narratological displacement, the new beginning that creates Part II of the story:

So therefore it is necessary to go back again (ἀναχωρητέον), and by taking again in turn (αὖθις αὖ) another suitable beginning (προσήκουσαν ἑτέραν ἀρχὴν) of these same things (αὐτῶν τούτων) – just as we did concerning things then, so now concerning these – we must begin (ἀρκτέον) back (πάλιν) from the beginning (ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς).

Timaeus 48a7–b3


First deployed is the εἰκών “likeness, image” of sculpture. [89] As gold is moulded into various σχήματα “figures,” but should always be called “gold,” so the “nature (φύσεως) that receives all bodies” never “stands apart (ἐξ-ίσταται) at all from its own power (δυνάμεως)” and must therefore always be “called the same.” [90] Her δύναμις “power” as “receptacle of all becoming” consists in continuously “receiving” everything without ever “taking” any μορφή “shape” of her own, a passive movement (κινούμενον) of impermanent figuration (διασχηματιζόμενον) by entering and exiting agents. [91] The active members of this ontological intercourse are μιμήματα “copies” that have been “formed by impress” (τυπωθέντα) from the eternal Forms. [92] Then, in a trope on the word φύεται “is born” (Timaeus 50d2), the three parties to this cosmic sculpture “become” a family:

And what is more (καὶ δὴ καὶ) it is fitting to liken (προσεικάσαι πρέπει) the one receiving (δεχόμενον) to a mother, the one from {258|259} which [supply from 50d1–2: “by being made like it, the one that becomes is born (φύεται)”] to a father, and the nature between these to an offspring (ἐκγόνῳ).

Timaeus 50d2–4

The εἰκών “likeness, image” is “appropriate” because – in this family – the relation between father and child is the same as that between a good copy and its paradigm. It is the relation that proves both the legitimacy of the son (it is, for example, his uncanny resemblance to Odysseus that makes Helen recognize Telemachus before she knows his name) and the “truth” of the copy: the reproduction of the same (ὅμοιον, the “like, same, equal to itself”). [
93] For the exactness of the replication is assured in this family by the function of khôra.

But an active khôra – an active, non-metaphysical, material event – is precluded even as it is revealed by the institution of Platonic philosophy as architectural. It would be the work of architecture outside of participation in the Forms, architecture outside of transcendental metaphysics, before the feminization of practical building in compensation for philosophical construction. It would be pre-architectural architecture, a building before building. As the city-plan of the Laws marks the artisan’s power and its suppression in the same configuration, so the architect of the Platonic khôra builds architectural dislocation as the erection of its impossibility.

Khôra “after as before” the Demiurge

“Persuaded to move most things to what is best,” Necessity moves to question the foundation of this impossibility.

The ambiguous movement of female and artisan in pre-Platonic thought makes it necessary to question the “passification” of khôra. If the Platonic architecture of philosophy is constructed upon a previously shaking and now impassive khôra, how firm can its foundation be? In this now Classic instance of a now classic move by which a constitutionally mobile female is maintenant supposed to stay put, can the Platonic text escape the φάρμακον “drug”-logic of female placement?

It is not only the pre-Platonic perspective that presses this question.

The text of the Timaeus calls itself an architecture. It is, in fact, a meta-architecture, pointing to its principles of construction at its constructed points. Its principles are those of Classical architecture and philosophy: spatial and temporal displacement of material (re)ordered and (re)joined in a “completion” (τελευτή, compare τέλος “end, completion”) with the organic harmony of the human body. [103] At the juncture via recapitulation of Part III to {260|261} Part II of his story, Timaeus describes himself in terms which recall the pre-Platonic nexus of architecture and gender under the sign of mêtis. He calls himself a builder and a weaver and a fitter of textual joints: [104]

Timaeus 69a6–b2

Then from this point in the present, Timaeus goes back to the time of disorder, and recapitulates the creation of the cosmos by the Demiurge in similarly tectonic terms (Timaeus 69b2–d6). [
107] This recapitulation itself repeats the principle that regulates the composition of the Timaeus – including the placement of khôra.

The Demiurgic creation encases the pre-architectural khôra in the constitutive vocabulary of Classical architectural excellence. [114] Describing the condition of the elements “before the birth of heaven” are alpha-privative adjectives – ἄ-λογος “without rational account, logic” and ἄ-μετρος “without measure” – that present the absence of rational calculation and proportion as a temporary pre-condition. [115] Thus mathematics and measurement become instruments of the Demiurgic kosmos (κοσμεῖσθαι, Timaeus 53b1, compare κόσμος, Timaeus 24c1, 27a6, 28b3, 29a2, 29b2, 29e4, 30b7, 30d1, 32c1, 6, 42e9, 48a1). [116] For a kosmos is no mere aggregation of μορφαί “shapes, material appearances,” but a particular σχῆμα “shape, figure” (διεσχηματίσατο, Timaeus 53b4, compare διασχηματιζόμενον, Timaeus 50c3 of khôra as an ἐκμαγεῖον “plastic medium” shaped by the entering μιμήματα “copies”) made by means of εἴδη “forms” and ἀριθμοί “numbers” (Timaeus 53b5). [117] By this configuration, the Demiurge “constructs” (συν-ιστάναι, Timaeus 53b6) the four elements, before only the ἴχνη “footprints” of themselves, as representations of the divine beauty and virtue (κάλλιστα ἄριστά τε, Timaeus 53b5–6) they previously lacked. [118] For these material μιμήματα “copies” of Being to be born and die true to Type, they must enter and exit khôra without any threat of maternal (dis)placement to distort the resemblance. The pre-architectural condition of khôra must be absolutely past.

For “before the birth of heaven,” khôra moved actively in a reciprocal mobilization of herself and the four pre-cosmic “kinds” (γένος “kind, kindred, gender”). Likened to a work of weaving and weaving herself with the diathetic ambiguity of the female (she displaces in being displaced), pre-architectural khôra figures a mêtis-like movement. Because the four “kinds” she contains are heterogeneous “powers” (δυνάμεων) of unequal weight, khôra lacks all equilibrium. [119] Her condition is one of complete and continuous ἀνωμαλία “lack of the same level, anomaly”: she is “shaken” (σείεσθαι) and thereby “shakes” (σείειν) the elements. [120] Hers is the movement of elements ever differing and deferring. For the shaking of khôra (dis)locates the four “kinds” according to their weight and texture. Continuing the iconology of mother and nurse, Timaeus illustrates this process with a simile drawn from the sphere of Demeter, goddess of motherhood and agriculture: khôra is likened to a πλόκανον “woven winnowing basket” that winnows by shaking the corn from the chaff “so that the thick and heavy go in one direction, and the thin and light are carried into another place and settle there.” [121] But “once (dis)placed” {263|264} the elements do not “stay put.” Quantitative differentiation (re)produces disequilibrium (re)produces quantitative differentiation. The “circular reciprocity” between what is shaken and what shakes is a perpetual weaving as unweaving, unweaving as weaving the four elemental “kinds.” [122] All gen(d)eric resemblance – the condition of truth within the Platonic cosmos – is at once constructed and reversed without possibility of arrest. Here the working of gender is not constructed as a marked vs. unmarked opposition. Time and identity contradict without self-contradiction: the elements remain ἴχνη “footprints” of themselves, past results of future causes. [123] The pre-cosmic khôra programs a universe in the condition of the trace.

This is the “choral work” that must be “passified” within the circumstructure of the Demiurgic order. “Swallowing” this mêtis within itself, the “later before earlier” (ὕστερον–πρότερον) “Form” binds her architectural power of displacement within its (re)presentation of the passive khôra. Once the “later” and the “earlier” conditions of khôra are reversed, however, and once the “earlier” joins up with the “later” again, the circle must stay closed. The truth of Timaeus’ ontology rests upon an architecture that excludes return to difference from the return of the same.

But once active and passive can be reversed, how irreversible can any “passification” be? Once there is displacement in and of time and space, no construction can escape its architecturality. There is no architectural law – and no law of an architectural ontology – to prevent B from coming again after A, to prevent khôra from shaking herself again. No ontology erected architecturally can be transcendental. This Platonic architecture (of A–B–A, with no return of B) cannot elude its foundation in “the circular reciprocity between what is binding and what is bound.” It cannot certainly (re)occur as real and binding always. By its own criterion, it cannot be true.

It is almost exclusively the post-architectural khôra that figures in the texts of the Choral Works.

Khôra “after as before” Choral Works

In the Transcript of their collaboration (as edited by Jeffrey Kipnis), both Eisenman and Derrida express the desire to dislocate the Classical institutions of architecture and philosophy by which each has been formed. Eisenman describes how his past work has attempted to “mount a critique of the systematic privileging of anthropocentric origins” in architectural Classicism, the tradition of “man” as the “measure of all things.” [126] When Derrida apologizes for his “foreignness to architecture,” Eisenman replies:

As his initial contribution toward creating “the architecture of which we speak,” Derrida offers the essay “Chôra” in which he criticizes the traditional attempt within Western philosophy to fit khôra into the framework of Classical oppositions. [

Despite the desire and the effort of each, Derrida and Eisenman emerge in Choral Works as names of institutions that remain undisturbed. As architectural program, the philosopher’s “Chôra” became the “crutch” of a {265|266} return in Choral Works of the “anthropocentrism” the architect desired to “overcome.”


For Derrida, this function of khôra as the third ontological kind has implications for her temporality and for her gender. These two categories are connected: because she is outside all the temporal distinctions of the realms of Being and Becoming, khôra lacks all intelligible or sensible properties, including those of “anthropomorphic” gender. To make this argument Derrida must suspend it in each category once. Apropos of time: to be outside all spatio-temporal positions, khôra must occupy the one irreversible moment of her “passification.” Apropos of gender: while denying khôra all properties, {266|267} those of receptivity and plastic impression are admitted as explanatory of her temporality and its “structural law.”


Khôra “is” the space of all temporal and spatial divisions, while remaining outside their horizon. Hence, the temporality of khôra is anachronism.


“She” or “it”? Neither “is” ontologically true. But each is a “necessity” of Platonic architecture and (as) philosophy in language.

Attempting “to speak still more clearly” about khôra, Plato configures the language of gender with the language of building, sculpture, and inscription to describe an ontological family whose members reflect the unmarked vs. marked construction of gender in Greek culture: father Being and his child Becoming share the unmarked attribute of real existence over against mother khôra’s marked lack of any property of her own. In his treatment of the gender of khôra, Derrida constructs, in effect, a similar unmarked vs. marked opposition between the two iconologies used to describe her.

Derrida is not uninterested in the function of γένος “kind, kindred, gender” in the Timaeus. He analyzes masterfully Socrates’ ambiguous status {267|268} inside and outside the genera of politicians and sophists. [135] Of the gender of khôra, however, Derrida confines his analysis to its “radical rebellion against anthropomorphism.” [136] He is aware that this limitation may elicit objection. About using the term khôra without a definite article and thus creating (in French, that is) a proper noun, he says:

Does that not aggravate the risks of anthropomorphism against which we would like to guard? Are these risks not run by Plato himself when he seems to “compare,” as one says, chôra to a mother or a nurse? Is the value of a receptacle not also associated, like passive and virgin matter, with the feminine element, and precisely in Greek culture? These objections are not without value. [Emphasis added]

But in answer to these objections he only reiterates khôra’s non-existence:

Dismissing the gender of khôra as ontologically non-existent (besides resting on the truth of the ontology) fails to account for why her gender is in the text at all, why it is emphasized as part of a family whose other, male members are not non-existent. It leaves unanalyzed, as if its politics had no philosophical import, Plato’s “risk” in systematically gendering the whole cosmic drama, not only khôra, but the dêmiourgos as father, the gods as obedient children, Being as father, Becoming as son. But it is not just for what it omits that Derrida’s treatment of the gender of khôra is open to criticism.

Indeed Derrida himself, while privileging the language of impression, cannot – or at least, does not – exclude the language of gender completely. For he does admit into his analysis one presumably female term: [140]

This version of the gender of khôra as a “virginity radically rebellious against anthropomorphism” stages a revolt of its own against the Platonic text. Where Derrida assumes exclusive separation of the ontological genres, Plato poses a more enigmatic relation. For according to Plato, khôra is not simply divorced from Being and Becoming tout court, but rather “participates in a most insoluble way in the intelligible.” [
142] And as for the gender term itself, Derrida chooses a sexual and social category of the female, perpetual virginity, not only absent from the Greek text, but indeed radically divergent from its emphasis on the roles of mother and nurse within a full family constellation. As it divided the plasticity from the gender of khôra, so here the marked vs. unmarked structure divides the gender of khôra itself, between the exclusively female functions of the Timaeus and Derrida’s more ambiguous, almost androgynous (for a virgin need not, of course, be female) creature, as devoid of marked female powers as are the Guardian women of the Republic. This reconstruction of the gender of khôra raises the question of why Derrida, after such careful effort to eliminate anthropomorphism, would choose a term he must qualify as non-anthropomorphic, why does he – must he – have recourse to the language of gender at all? Why must he reconstruct (female) gender to say what he means?

Eisenman’s ultimate response to Derrida’s “Chôra” is a project – a version of his trademark “scaling” schemes – whose anthropocentrism and Classical totalizations were recognized acutely by the participants, who tried “after as before” to “overcome” them.

It was nearly otherwise.

Despite this stricture, later in the collaboration, but before the formulation of his own “scaling” scheme, Eisenman ventures a materialization of khôra, almost a cognate of the pre-architectural ἀνωμαλία “lack of the same level, anomaly” in its “circular reciprocity” of formant and trace :

But Derrida refuses this “physical analogue” of a receptacle as being an “inadequate metaphor” along with “figure/ground,” even as he admits the unavoidability of both metaphors and buildings:

PE: But why, then, isn’t a receptacle a ground?

JD: Because it [i.e., khôra] is nothing … It is not a being.

PE: … We are constrained to make being in architecture.

PE: And metaphor/metonymy also?

At this point, Eisenman does not resist the impasse or pursue his intimation of choral anomaly.

Eisenman’s “scaling” scheme for Choral Works derives from manipulating these parameters of relationship. The scheme is described by Eisenman’s associate, Thomas Lesser, at the fifth meeting of the team:

Referring to a diagram like this one:

1. Tschumi’s project at La Villette

2. site of La Villette in Paris

3. site of Cannareggio in Venice

4. Eisenman’s project at Cannareggio in Venice

Bergren chap9 diagram

Lesser continues:

As you can see, the first column of the diagram, which shows Tschumi’s scheme and La Villette as presences and Peter’s scheme and Venice as absences, represents facts as they exist relative to the site. So, we will not build that column, but the other three, “fictional” columns. For example, in the next condition Venice [4] as a future for Bernard’s project [1] and La Villette [2] as the present for Peter’s Cannareggio scheme [3]. So in this permutation, Bernard’s scheme is the influence on Peter’s scheme. Each column contains a different fiction, created by different ordering of the four elements in the horizontal conditions of presence and absence, solid and void. [155]

In the model of the scheme [Figure 2. Model of Choral Works.], in which fictional version II is worked out, “present solids” appear as vertical extrusions of the ground, those of the “future” reaching higher than those of the “present.” “Absent voids” appear as negative depressions, those of the “past” dug deepest into the ground. In the three “fictional” transformations of the “real” condition, elements are scaled up or down from their original dimensions, whichever is necessary, in order for the “future” and “past” to be superimposed at “half scale” upon the “present” rendered at “full scale.” Lesser explains: {273|274}

While producing a “reversal of reality and meaning,” [
157] the scheme is not satisfying either to Eisenman or Derrida.

Both architect and philosopher recognize in the proposal Classical limitations. While neither points overtly to the obvious “anthropocentrism” of making Eisenman’s and Tschumi’s rivalry the “original measure” of the scheme, the features each does choose to criticize and the measures he takes to correct them are not arbitrary. In them, the materials, matters, and forces co-constructing Classical architecture, gender, and philosophy reconverge. {274|275} The final movement of Choral Works replays the architecture of the Timaeus as the Demiurge again “passifies” the pre-architecture khôra.

Bergren chap9 fig2

For Eisenman, the problem with the project concerns the hierarchy of “whole” over “hole.” His scheme does not, he believes, sufficiently reverse its subordination to Tschumi’s larger design. Speaking of the “three [fictional] sites” he proposes to build in relation to the “entire park,” he explains:

In Eisenman’s own terms, the “whole project” of the Parc La Villette is a “continuous fabric” with his three sites as smaller-scale “holes within it.” Because they are scaled in relation to Tschumi’s larger design, these three smaller “holes” become “part of a scheme underlying the whole thing” and “make Bernard’s project as a whole an aspect of the same fabric.” But currently every element in the three smaller sites is “in the same scale relative to a human being.” The “hole” is still subordinate to Tschumi’s “whole.” To reverse the relegation, Eisenman wishes to scale up an element of his smaller sites to “real scale relative to the actual park,” thus extending the “boundary of his scheme” to that of a “larger fabric” that would encompass both “it and the park.” In this vision, the Parc La Villette becomes a woven allomorph of khôra, one that rival Platonic architects, mêtis-endowed masters of the weaving art, compete to contain as and by a (w)hole.

A true avatar of the Demiurge, Eisenman at once locates and stabilizes this “other” khôra, indeed as the very centerpiece of the Choral Works. [Figure 2. Model of Choral Works.] As Zeus would swallow mêtis, as the oἶκος “household” would contain female mobility, as Platonic architecture would enclose the pre-cosmic khôra, and as Derrida refused Eisenman’s “physical analogue” of choral ἀνωμαλία “lack of the same level, anomaly,” so Eisenman makes Derrida’s “other gender” into a radically non-anthropomorphic, perpetually virgin “hole” in the middle of his “ground.” {277|}

Bergren chap9 fig3


[ back ] 1. An earlier version of this essay appeared in Innovations of Antiquity, edited by R. Hexter and D. Selden, New York, 1992:253–305 and Strategies in Architectural Thinking, edited by R. Burdett, J. Kipnis, and J. Whiteman, Cambridge, Mass., 1992:8-46. This essay was originally written for the Conference on Architectural Theory at the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill Foundation, Chicago, Illinois, September 9–11, 1988. An expanded version was presented to the departments of Classics and Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and the Peter Eisenman office in New York in 1989. The paper was completed with the support of a Fellowship in 1989-1990 from the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, helpful reading by Andrew Dyck and Sarah Morris, invaluable discussion of the Timaeus with David Blank, the constructive criticism of Peter Eisenman, the inspiration of Daniel Selden, and the abiding solicitation of Jeffrey Kipnis. The reading of John Whiteman saw it through.

[ back ] 2. The noun khôra “place, space” is transliterated as chôra in Derrida’s essay and in other texts cited below. Derrida’s essay “Chôra” was first published in a volume honoring the Classicist Jean-Pierre Vernant, Poikilia: Études offertes à Jean-Pierre Vernant (Paris, 1987:265–295), cited below as Derrida “Chôra” 1987a. Its epigraph is a quote from Vernant’s “Raisons du mythe” in Vernant 1974:195–244 = 1980:186–242, in which Vernant distinguishes the logic of muthos, of ambiguity, equivocality, and polarity, from that of the logos, the philosophical logic of non-contradiction. Derrida presents to Vernant, as scholar of the opposition muthos/logos and of the “incessant inversion of poles,” the “homage of a question” with regard to the Platonic khôra: “how are we to think that which, while exceeding the regularity of logos, its law, its natural or legitimate genealogy, does not, however, belong, stricto sensu, to muthos?” (266). For the thought of Vernant on the muthos/logos opposition, Derrida refers also to Vernant 1978 (266). English translations here of Derrida’s essay are mine. The French text of “Chôra” with an English translation by Ian McCloud is included in a volume documenting the collaboration, Choral Works: Jacques Derrida and Peter Eisenman, edited by Jeffrey Kipnis and Thomas Leeser (New York, 1997:15–32, 190–207), cited below as Choral Works 1997. This book contains transcripts edited by Jeffrey Kipnis of the tape-recorded meetings of Derrida, Eisenman, and other members of the design team as well as an extensive commentary on both Derrida’s essay and the design process of the project by Kipnis, “Twisting the Separatrix” (137–160). Jacques Derrida writes of the collaboration in “Pourquoi Peter Eisenman écrit de si bons livres” (Derrida 1987b:495–508). This text with an English translation by Sarah Whiting is included in Choral Works (95–101, 173–179).

[ back ] 3. For the mutual construction of philosophy and architecture, see Wigley 1989:7–21, esp. 11–12: 

Metaphysics produces the architectural object as the paradigm of ground-as-support in order to ground its own ungrounded condition. Philosophy represents itself as architecture, it translates itself as architecture producing itself in translation. The limits of architecture are established by the metaphorical status of architecture … Philosophy describes itself in terms of that thing which it subordinates … It produces an architecture of grounded structure which it then uses for support, leaning on it, resting within it. The edifice is constructed to make theory possible, then subordinated as a metaphor in order to defer to some higher, non-material truth. Architecture is constructed as a material reality in order to liberate some higher domain. As material, it is but a metaphor. The most material condition is used to establish the most ideal order, which is then bound to reject it as merely metaphorical.

[ back ] 4. For the “archeology,” see Wittkower 1988, esp. 32, 38–39, 104–137. Wittkower notes that the Renaissance knew the principles of Greek Classicism from texts such as the Timaeus rather than from temples (41).

[ back ] 5. The following quotations are excerpted from my tape recordings of the sessions.

[ back ] 6. Compare the remarks of Eisenman (PE) and Derrida (JD) in Transcript One, 17 September 1985 (Choral Works 1997:13):


PE: What I would suggest is that we try to find a mechanism which, in a sense, initially destabilizes the work we produce from a traditional architectural reading. It is also possible to destabilize its traditional functionality. We could, for example, make part of it inaccessible.

JD: In La Villette you cannot make it inaccessible.

PE: But you can make part of it inaccessible.

JD: The concept of the garden is something that contains access, the product of the garden is the pleasure of walking.


and Transcript Four, 3 April 1986 (Choral Works 1997:70):


PE: Ordinary Parisians … should feel dislocated. That is the important thing – the dislocation from the ordinary expectation of what is a garden. It should be like reading Finnegan’s Wake for the first time.


Derrida argues for the maintenant of architecture – the “now” that “maintains” – in “Point de Folie – Maintenant l’Architecture” (Derrida 1986 = 1987b:477–494).

[ back ] 7. For consideration of gender at the Conference on Architectural Theory, see the comments by Mark Wigley following his paper and the papers of Beatriz Colomina and her respondent Silvia Kolbowski, Jennifer Bloomer and her respondent Durham Crout, Robert Segrest, and Robert McAnulty. The proceedings of the conference are published by the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism in a volume entitled Strategies in Architectural Thinking, edited by Burdett, Kipnis, and Whiteman 1992.

[ back ] 8. See, for example, Favro 1989, published in Architecture: A Place of Women, a collection of articles grouped under the categories of I. “Researching the Past,” II. “Recounting Personal Involvement,” III. “Suggesting Various Possibilities,” and IV. “Envisioning Future Roles.” See also Hayden 1981, 1984; Torre, ed. 1977 and 1981.

[ back ] 9. See, for example, Erlemann 1985:125–134.

[ back ] 10. For the relation between gender and what is understood as biological sex, as articulated by psychoanalysis and anthropology, see Mitchell and Rose, eds. 1982 and MacCormack and Strathern, eds. 1980. For a review of the research on gender, see Laqueur 1990:1–24.

[ back ] 11. A pervasive example is the classification of nouns by gender. This mode of classification is ambiguous in what linguists term “motivation”: in some languages, the total of feminine nouns contains nearly all feminine living beings and correspondingly for the masculine, while in other languages the genders have “no discernible semantic core” (Greenberg 1966:39). Ambiguity of motivation is one of the characteristics of semiotic “marking” – as it is defined below – and thus makes gender itself a “marked” category. This marking of gender implies the existence of an unmarked, gender-neutral condition – a condition repressed by the universality of differentiation by gender.

[ back ] 12. See Greenberg 1966:25 and Waugh 1982:302–303. Waugh (1982:300) quotes Jakobson in a letter to Trubetzkoy: “It seems to me that it [the marked/unmarked opposition] has a significance not only for linguistics but also for ethnology and the history of culture, and that such historico-cultural correlations as life ~ death, liberty ~ non-liberty, sin ~ virtue, holidays ~ working days, etc., are always confined to relations a ~ non-a, and that it is important to find out for any epoch, group, nation, etc., what the marked element is. For instance, Majakovskij viewed life as a marked element realizable only when motivated; for him not death but life required a motivation.” Waugh then notes that Majakovskij committed suicide.

[ back ] 13. “Male human being” or as Gregory Nagy used to say, “male man.”

[ back ] 14. Man = human bears the “zero-interpretation” (zero degree of x), man = not-female bears the “minus-interpretation” (minus x). It is the context alone that determines the “plus-interpretation,” thus imposing special effort upon the interpreter (compare Greenberg 1966:28, 51, who designates this usage “facultative”). Waugh (1982:305) gives an example of the plus-interpretation of man: “everyone in New York State is entitled to an abortion if he wants it.” We shall see a plus-interpretation of “man” below in the figure of the Greek male appropriating powers his language has marked as “female.”

[ back ] 15. See Greenberg 1966:26 and 52–53 for other such pairs of adjectives. Compare Waugh 1982:308–309 on “speech” vs. “writing” as an illustration that markedness is hierarchical rather than derivational, since writing is marked in relation to speech, despite possessing its own properties and structure.

[ back ] 16. See Greenberg 1966:26.

[ back ] 17. Waugh (1982:309) notes the marked vs. unmarked pairs: barrenness/fertility, homosexuality/heterosexuality, black person/white person. As in the example of “barrenness,” the “something different” possessed by the marked member may be conceived as a “lack.” In the Aristotelian construction of gender, for example, females are marked as members of the same genos (defined by Aristotle in Metaphysics 1024a: γένος λέγεται τὸ μὲν ἐὰν ᾖ ἡ γένεσις συνεχὴς τῶν τὸ εἶδος ἐχόντων τὸ αὐτό “the term genos is used whenever there is a continuous genesis ‘generation’ of those entities having the same eidos ‘visible or intelligible form’”) as males, but lacking sperm (defined by Aristotle as the sole principle of movement, form, and soul in human reproduction; see, for example, Generation of Animals 730a–b, 736a–737a). Aristotle maintains this marking, despite the difference in the eidos “visible form” of male and female genitals and despite the regular Greek usage, followed by Aristotle himself in Rhetoric 1407b, of genos to designate the masculine, feminine, and inanimate grammatical “genders.” Sissa (1991:58–100) unfolds this “sexual politics” in Aristotle’s philosophy of gender. Another example from ancient Greek is the term barbaroi from which European languages inherit the notion of the “barbarian.” So greatly do the ancient Greeks privilege their language that ethnic, local, national, and cultural differences are subsumed under the linguistic. As females lack sperm, so non-Greeks are marked by their lack of the Greek language, for barbaroi are those who cannot speak Greek, but only “bar-bar-bar.” In this “linguo-centric” reduction, “race” is constructed as language. The unmarked vs. marked division between Greeks and barbarians is criticized in Plato Politicus 262c10–263a1, where it is claimed that the correct division of racial genera should take the “separate but equal” form of an odd vs. even or female vs. male split; see below, n. 58.

[ back ] 18. Compare Jakobson to Trubetzkoy (quoted in Waugh 1982:300–301): “I’m convinced that many ethnographic phenomena, ideologies, etc. which at first glance seem to be identical, often differ only in the fact that what for one system is a marked term may be evaluated by the other precisely as the absence of the mark.”

[ back ] 19. See Greenberg 1966:66.

[ back ] 20. See Greenberg 1966:39, 79–80. See also Waugh 1982:309–310 on some instances of the reversal of the markedness relation over time.

[ back ] 21. For the details of the material sketched below, see “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought” in this collection.

[ back ] 22. Compare the dilemma of the male as represented by Jacques Lacan in relation to the knowledge and the desire of the female in “God and the Jouissance of The Woman,” in Mitchell and Rose 1982:137–149.

[ back ] 23. For the work and the intelligence of the artisan as mêtis, see Vidal-Naquet 1986d:224–245.

[ back ] 24. The essential work on mêtis is Detienne and Vernant 1974 = 1978.

[ back ] 25. See Detienne and Vernant 1978:34, 37 for examples from the animal world: the hunted fox reverses itself, plays dead, and turns into a trap for the hunter; the fox-fish on the hook turns its body inside out, so that its interior becomes its exterior, and the hook falls out.

[ back ] 26. See Detienne and Vernant 1978:46: “The ultimate expression of these qualities is the circle, the bond that is perfect because it completely turns back on itself, is closed in on itself, with neither beginning nor end, front nor rear, and which in rotation becomes both mobile and immobile, moving in both directions at once … The circle unites within it several opposites, each one giving birth to its opposite, it appears as the strangest, most baffling thing in the world, thaumasiôtaton, possessing a power which is beyond ordinary logic.”

[ back ] 27. See Detienne and Vernant 1978:305.

[ back ] 28. For the construction of war machines as a part of the ancient architectural repertoire, see Vitruvius De Architectura 10.10–16, the climax of his treatise.

[ back ] 29. For the connection between weaving and architecture, Daniel Selden refers me to Callimachus Hymn to Apollo 55–57: “Men follow Phoebus when they measure out cities. For Phoebus always delights in founding cities, and he himself weaves (ὑφαίνει) their foundations (θεμείλια).”

[ back ] 30. The trick of the stone is termed a mêtis at Theogony 471 when Rhea begs Gaia and Uranus to “devise together with her (συμφράσσασθαι) a mêtis by which she could make him forget that she bore her dear child.” It is Gaia who takes the newborn Zeus to be raised secretly in the Cretan cave (Theogony 479–484) and she could be the subject of “having swaddled a great stone, she handed it to the son of Uranus” (Theogony 485), unless a change of subject back to Rhea is to be understood. For the architectural significance of such swaddling, compare the Bekleidung “dressing, cladding” of a building in the theory of 19th century comparative architectural historian and theoretician Gottfried Semper (1989:24, 34, 36–40, 103–110, 240–243).

[ back ] 31. As Detienne and Vernant observe (1978:57–130, esp. 67–68, 109), Zeus “attacks Metis with her own weapons” and the text of the Theogony calls him μητίετα Ζεύς “Zeus endowed with mêtis” even before his defeat of the goddess. The anachronism is central to the goal of the text, the validation of Zeus’ rule: Zeus is able to acquire mêtis and the “right to rule” it brings because he has already always possessed it. The ruler takes what has always been inherently his own.

[ back ] 32. Compare the architectural “battle of the sexes” between the sperm as dynamic τέκτων “builder” endowed with informing soul and the menstrual fluid as passive ὕλη “material, matter” in the embryology of Aristotle’s Generation of Animals: “The sperm of the male differs, because it possesses a principle (ἀρχήν) in itself of such a kind as to cause movement (κινεῖν) and to concoct thoroughly the ultimate nourishment, but the [sperm] of the female contains matter (ὕλην) only. If [the male sperm] gains mastery (κρατῆσαν), it brings [the matter] into itself, but if it is mastered (κρατηθέν), it changes into its opposite or is destroyed” (Generation of Animals 766b12–16). See also Generation of Animals 730b, 736a, 737a, 765b, 767b.

[ back ] 33. Apollodorus Bibliotheca 1.3.6.

[ back ] 34. See Lévi-Strauss 1967:548–570 = 1969:478–497.

[ back ] 35. For Helen as the figure of such female placement, see “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought” and “Helen’s ‘Good Drug’” in this collection.

[ back ] 36. For the attempt to resolve this ambiguity of female movement via the Odyssean architectural ideal of immovable (re)marriage, see “The (Re)Marriage of Penelope and Odysseus” in this collection.

[ back ] 37. Freud 1933 [1932]:132:”It seems that women have made few contributions to the discoveries and inventions in the history of civilization; there is, however, one technique which they may have invented – that of plaiting and weaving. If that is so, we should be tempted to guess the unconscious motive for the achievement. Nature herself would seem to have given the model which this achievement imitates by causing the growth at maturity of the pubic hair that conceals the genitals. The step that remained to be taken lay in making the threads adhere to one another, while on the body they stick into the skin and are only matted together. If you reject this idea as fantastic and regard my belief in the influence of a lack of a penis on the configuration of femininity as an idée fixe, I am of course defenseless.” In a nice stroke of irony, Freud hits upon a certain truth in the aetiology of architecture, namely the lack – lack of shelter, protection, beauty, meaning, value – that it attempts to supplement. And in naming that lack, the female lack of a penis, Freud repeats, against the will of his text (which would downplay the woman’s construction), the Greek attribution of a female gender to mêtis and thus to architecture.

Compare Gottfried Semper’s theory of weaving as the origin of architecture as vertical space enclosure. See, for example, “Structural Elements of Assyrian-Chaldean Architecture” = chapter 10 of “Comparative Building Theory” (“Vergleichende Baulehre,” 1950), in Herrmann 1984:204–218, especially 205–206: “It is well known that any wild tribe is familiar with the fence or a primitive hurdle as a means of enclosing space. Weaving the fence led to weaving movable walls … Using wickerwork for setting apart one’s property and for floor mats and protection against heat and cold far preceded making even the roughest masonry. Wickerwork was the original motif of the wall. It retained this primary significance, actually or ideally, when the light hurdles and mattings were later transformed into brick or stone walls. The essence of the wall was wickerwork. Hanging carpets remained the true walls; they were the visible boundaries of a room. The often solid walls behind them were necessary for reasons that had nothing to do with the creation of space; they were needed for protection, for supporting a load, for their permanence, etc … Even where solid walls became necessary, they were only the invisible structure hidden behind the true representatives of the wall, the colorful carpets that the walls served to hold and support.”

[ back ] 38. See Durante 1960:231–249. See also Schmitt 1967:299–301, Durante 1976:48, 167–179, Snyder 1981, Scheid and Svenbro 1996, esp. 111–130, Nagy 1996a:84–92, Nagy 1996b:63–74, Graziosi 2002:18–40, Nagy 2002:70–98.

[ back ] 39. The ambiguity of the γραφή “drawing, writing” is obscured in languages that attempt a clean break between the graphic and the linguistic, between building as “dumb object” and language: for example, English “draw” vs. “write” (though “draw” means “write” in “draw a contract”), French dessiner vs. écrire, German zeichnen vs. schreiben, Italian disegnare vs. scrivere. On the glossary of drawing, see Derrida 1978 = 1987c. For painting (ζωγραφία “writing/drawing living things”) as a special case of writing (γραφή “drawing, writing”), since in both cases, the graphic object remains silent when questioned, see Plato Phaedrus 275d.

[ back ] 40. The root of γράμμα “drawing, written character” is γραφ- (as in γραφή “drawing, writing”): γραφ + μα > γράμμα. For the text, see Apollodorus Bibliotheca 3.14.8.

[ back ] 41. For the details of the summary below, see Petrie 1979. For the ancient sources of the myth of Trophonius and its many variants in other cultures, see the note on Pausanias 9.37 in Frazer 1913:176–179. Together these stories reveal a complex and pervasive account within traditional thought of the relationship between architectural and politico-economic power.

[ back ] 42. On the problematic status of the architect in the Greek polis, its local and historical variations, and the lack of scholarly consensus on the evidence, see Coulton 1977:23–29.

[ back ] 43. Political power in archaic Greek thought is dependent upon the products of mêtis. In addition to Metis herself, Zeus’ sovereignty depends upon acquiring his characteristic weapon, the thunderbolt, a work of mêtis by the Cyclopes. See Detienne and Vernant 1978:57–105.

[ back ] 44. See Petrie 1979:24.

[ back ] 45. See Austin and Vidal-Naquet 1977:12.

[ back ] 46. In the Homeric world, dêmiourgoi were “travelling specialists who offered their services to the community (dêmos)” (Austin and Vidal-Naquet 1977:45–46; see also 201). Compare Odyssey xvii 383–386: “ … those who are dêmiourgoi – the prophet, the healer of sicknesses, the builder with beams (τέκτονα δούρων), or the inspired bard, who delights by his singing – for these are the mortals invited from place to place upon the limitless earth.”

[ back ] 47. Compare Vidal-Naquet 1986d:240: “In likening artisans to women I am not indulging in a simplistic comparison.”

[ back ] 48. Aristotle records that in some city-states, before the institution of radical democracy, the dêmiourgos was excluded from political office (Politics 1277b1–3). Compare also the ancient practice of admiring the work without mentioning the artist and of denigrating those who attain a professional level of skill in any performing art (Austin and Vidal-Naquet 1977:177–178).

[ back ] 49. Austin and Vidal-Naquet 1977:12, 190–193, 246–248, and Brisson 1974:92.

[ back ] 50. The salary of Archilochus, architect of the Erechtheum, was 1 drachma per day, comparable to that of a carpenter (Petrie 19779:24). Greek legendary history preserves accounts of architects vying with the political power of the client for the “paternity” of the building. For example, the architect of the lighthouse of Alexandria builds his authority into the structure’s future, its deterioration through time: he covers his construction with a coating of plaster bearing the king’s name – which falls away after a few years to reveal his own (Petrie 1979:29).

[ back ] 51. Inscriptions record the name of the architect just after that of the magistrate and a repeated phrase indicating the architect’s authority: “however the architect orders … ” (Petrie 1979:26–27).

[ back ] 52. The συγγραφή was not a prefiguration of the project, but rather a detailed description of the phases of execution and of their cost – the ancient architect was a writer and a contractor – and it was as such that his orders carried obligatory force (Petrie 1979:27). Compare the διαγράμματα “diagrams” by “Daedalus or some other dêmiourgos or painter,” Plato Republic 529e1–3.

[ back ] 53. For eugenic marriage and communal child-rearing, see Republic Book V. For an alternate vision in Platonic thought of how to regulate marriage, see Laws 771d5–772a4 and for another eugenic scheme, Politicus 310b–e. For the effort in the Republic to eliminate the “mark” of the female, see Rosenstock 1994.

[ back ] 54. Compare the résumé of an argument like that of the Republic at the start of the Timaeus, where the assimilation of female to male is described as an architectural construction – a “harmonization:” “And indeed we also made mention of women, how it would be necessary to fit together (συναρμοστέον < ἁρμόζω “fit, join” of carpentry, compare ἁρμονία “fitting together, harmony”) their natures so that they are nearly beside (παραπλησίας: παρά “beside, nearly” + πλησίος “beside, near”) men (Timaeus 18c 1–2).” Compare the desire of the Demiurge that the cosmos be “as nearly like (παραπλήσια) himself as possible” (Timaeus 29e2–3). For the verb συναρμόζω “fit together” of the Demiurgic architecture, see Timaeus 32b3, 35a8, 53e7–8, 56c7, 74c7, 81d5.

Contrast this universalization of unmarkedness in the zero-interpretation, whereby all human beings become male, with the gender-neutral unmarkedness entailed by the marking of gender per se (see above, n. 10) in which neither gender would differentiate.

[ back ] 55. In Platonic idiom to be “true to yourself” is to be “like” or “the same;” see, for example, Symposium 173d4, Republic 549e2. For the collocation of “like” and “true” as synonymous, see Sophist 252d1 and Philebus 65d2–3, as reciprocal, Phaedrus 273d1–6. The basis of this relation is the “likeness” or “sameness” of the sensible particular and the intelligible Form or paradigm; see Republic 472c4–d1, Parmenides 132d1–4 (where the participation of the particular in the paradigm is precisely the relation of likeness). The vulnerability of this mimetic conception of truth is registered in the Muses’ speech, when they claim they can “say many false things (ψεύδεα) like (ὁμοῖα ‘like, equal, same’) to real things.”

[ back ] 56. For the points de capiton “upholstery buttons” as the anchoring or nodal points that bind together associative material of the unconscious in the “knotted” structure of the symptom, see Lacan 1966:260 = 1977:154 and Muller and Richardson 1982:113.

[ back ] 57. The Muses “speak to us in a tragic manner, as to children, playing and bantering, as though speaking with seriousness in lofty language,” articulating a perfect number for the divine creature and for the human creature, in ignorance of which the Guardians will mate couples at the wrong time and thus cause the birth of unworthy offspring – who will display their degeneracy first of all in the neglect of the Muses, “considering the arts less important than is required” (Plato Republic 545e, 546d). Grube (1974:197) expresses the ambiguity with which this pivotal passage is viewed: “The mock heroic invocation to the Muses and their talking in tragic language should warn us not to take the mathematical myth which follows too seriously or too literally. It is perhaps the most obscure and controversial passage in the whole of Plato’s works.” He translates: “For a divine creature which is born there is a cycle contained in a perfect number; for man it is the first number in which are found root and square increases, taking three dimensions and four limits, of the numbers that make things like and unlike, cause them to increase and decrease and which make all things correspond and rational in relation to one another. Of these the lowest numbers in the ratio of four to three, married to five, give two harmonies when multiplied three times, the one a square, so many times a hundred, the other of equal length one way, but oblong, the one side a hundred numbers obtained from the rational diameters of five, each reduced by one, or from the irrational diameters reduced by two, the other side being a hundred cubes of three,” Republic 546b–c. But the numbers themselves are, in fact, calculable and significant, the human one being apparently the sum of the cubes of the numbers of the “right triangle” (3, 4, 5), that is, 216, the shortest period of human gestation in days, plus the Pythagorean marriage number, 6. See Grube 1974:197n6.

[ back ] 58. See Vidal-Naquet (1986d:240) who concludes his essay “A Study in Ambiguity: Artisans in the Platonic City” by citing Plato Republic 620c1–2, where the soul of Epeius, architect of the Trojan horse, “enters the nature of a female skilled in τέχνη ‘craft’.”

[ back ] 59. See Politicus 278e4–279c3. Although posing a “separate but equal” division of the genders at 262c10–263a1 (see above, n. 16), the text returns the unmarked vs. marked hierarchy: the female mark of weaving is adopted as the paradigm of the Statesman’s ἐπιστήμη “knowledge” (while the weaving τέχνη “craft” itself is belittled as a small, material, visible εἴδωλον “image” of one of τὰ ἀσώματα, κάλλιστα ὄντα καὶ μέγιστα “the immaterial things, being most beautiful and greatest” 285d8–286b1) and in the dialogue’s creation myth the male dêmiourgos governs cosmic cycles that move back and forth like the woven thread (268d8–274e4). See also Vidal-Naquet 1986d:227. On the figure of weaving in Platonic thought, see Frère 1986.

[ back ] 60. See Timaeus 28b–29d, esp. 29b3–c2: “So therefore concerning an εἰκών ‘likeness, image, copy’ and its παράδειγμα “model” it is necessary to draw a distinction (διοριστέον): that accounts (λόγους) are cognate (συγγενεῖς) with those things of which they are the interpreters (ἐξηγηταί). So of what is abiding and stable and clearly seen with the intelligence (μετὰ νοῦ), the accounts are abiding and unchanging – to the degree it is possible and appropriate for accounts to be irrefutable and invincible, they must lack nothing of this. But of what is likened (ἀπεικασθέντος) to that [the intelligible] and is a likeness (εἰκόνος), the accounts are likenesses (εἰκότας) and in analogical relation with the former accounts: as being (οὐσία) is to becoming (γένεσιν), so truth (ἀλήθεια) is to belief (πίστιν). If then, Socrates, in many respects concerning many things – the gods and the becoming (γενέσεως) of the universe – we are not able to render accounts that are everywhere entirely consistent with themselves and accurate, do not be amazed. But if we present accounts no less likely than any other, we must be content, remembering how I who speak and you who are the judges possess human nature, so that it is fitting for us to receive a likely tale (εἰκότα μῦθον) concerning these things and to seek nothing beyond this.” Timaeus frequently reiterates the iconological status of his narrative (Timaeus 34c2–4, 44c7–d1, 48c1, d2, 49b6, 53d5–6, 55d5, 56a1, 56c8-d1, 57d6, 72d5–8, 90e8) and at Timaeus 59c5–d2 defends it (on which passage, see Derrida 1987a:282). See also Timaeus 49a6–50a4 where Timaeus insists that terminology should match ontological status, so that no perpetually changing element should be called a “this,” as if it possessed permanent being, but rather a thing “of such a quality always recurring as the same” – for example, not “fire,” but “something with the quality of fire that always recurs with the same quality.” On the metonymic relation between the kinds of being and the kinds of discourse in the Timaeus, see Derrida 1987a:266–267.

[ back ] 61. For these divisions, see the translation and commentary of Cornford 1937:32–39, 159, 279.

[ back ] 62. The term dêmiourgos is appropriate for the creator of the cosmos insofar as it covers the whole world of construction and production, both concrete (for example, shoes, Gorgias 447d1–3, Theaetetus 146d1; beds, Republic 597d9–11; images of animals and houses, Republic 401b1–7; women’s κόσμος “ornament,” Republic 373b8–c1; musical instruments, Republic 399c10–d1; Silenus-statues, Symposium 215a6–215b3; brass-ware, clay pots, cooked meat, Euthydemus 301c3–9; Pheidias’ Parthenon sculptures, Hippias Major 290a5–9; refined gold, Politicus 303d10–e5) and figurative (for example, justice, Protagoras 327c7; moderation, justice, and virtue, Republic 500d4–8; crimes, Republic 552d3-6; freedom, Republic 395c1; love between gods and men, Symposium 188d1; painted images in the soul, Philebus 39b3–7; names, Cratylus 431e1; noble deeds, Laws 829d1–4; beautiful εἰκόνες “likenesses” in speech, Laws 898b3). The particular craft of architecture is indicated here in the Timaeus by the use with dêmiourgos of verbs of building: τεκταίνομαι (compare τέκτων “builder” and ἀρχιτέκτων “architect”) and construction: σύν “together, with” + ἵστημι “make stand, set up.” The Timaeus is not the only dialogue in which a dêmiourgos figures as architect of the cosmos: see also Republic 530a4–7, Politicus 270a5, 273b1–2, and Republic 507c6–8 for the dêmiourgos as fabricator of the “lavish power of seeing and being seen.”

[ back ] 63. For the dêmiourgos as characterized by special knowledge, see also Republic 360e7–361a1, Sophist 232d5–8.

[ back ] 64. For the linking of dêmiourgos and ποιητής “maker, poet,” see also Republic 599d2–e1, Symposium 205b8–c2, 209a3–5.

[ back ] 65. See also Timaeus 31a4, 37c8–d1 (for the cosmos as ὅμοιον “like” its paradigm), Timaeus 38b6–c3 (for time as ὁμοιότατος “most like” its paradigm of eternal nature), Timaeus 39e2–7 (for the cosmos as wrought εἰς ὁμοιότητα “in the likeness of” and ἀποτυπούμενος “typed from” its paradigm), Timaeus 48e4–49a1.

[ back ] 66. For the verbs τεκταίνομαι “build” and συντεκταίνομαι “build together” of the Demiurge and the gods as his deputies, see Timaeus 33b1, 36e1, 68e5, 70e3, 91a2, and 30b5, 45b3.

[ back ] 67. See Timaeus 29b1–2, 37d5-7, 52c2, 92c7 (for the cosmos as εἰκὼν τοῦ νοητοῦ “likeness of the intelligible”).

[ back ] 68. See Timaeus 28a6–b1: “Whenever the dêmiourgos, by looking always toward what is the same and using something of this sort as model (παραδείγματι), produces the visible form (ἰδέαν) and power of his work, by necessity everything he accomplishes in this way must be beautiful and good (καλόν).”

[ back ] 69. See also Timaeus 30b4–5: “Having constructed (συνιστάς) intelligence (νοῦν) in the soul and the soul in the body, he built together (συνετεκταίνετο) the totality (τὸ πᾶν).” See also Timaeus 30c3, 32c7. The verb συνίστημι is used of the dêmiourgos constructing the heavens (συνεστάναι τῷ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ δημιουργῷ) at Republic 530a6.

[ back ] 70. See Timaeus 36d8–e2: “And when the whole construction (σύστασις) of the soul had come into being according to the intelligence (κατὰ νοῦν) of the constructor (συνιστάντι), then he built (ἐτεκταίνετο) within it all that is corporeal, and bringing them together, middle to middle, he fit them together (προσήρμοττεν: compare ἁρμονία “fitting together”). And the soul was interwoven (διαπλακεῖσα) everywhere from the middle to the outermost heaven.”

[ back ] 71. See Timaeus 28c3, 41a7, 42e6–7.

[ back ] 72. As the plot of the Iliad represents the βουλή “wish, plan” of Zeus (Iliad I 5), so the ἀρχή “origin” (Timaeus 29e4) of the cosmos is located in the psychological condition – the goodness (ἀγαθός), the lack of envy (φθόνος), the wish (ἐβουλήθη, βουληθείς), the considered judgment (ἡγησάμενος) – of its anthropomorphic creator (Timaeus 29e1–30a6).

[ back ] 73. See Timaeus 33d2, 68e3.

[ back ] 74. See also Laws 898a8–b3.

[ back ] 75. See Vidal-Naquet 1986d.

[ back ] 76. Vidal-Naquet 1986d:229-232. Compare the segregation of the artisans and the farmers from the elite Guardian class in the Republic 415a–c, 466a8–b2, 468a1–7.

[ back ] 77. Vidal-Naquet (1986d:238) notes the closest thing in all of Greek history to “a collective action with political goals” mounted by artisans: the plan of Cinadon in the 4th century bce to overthrow the Spartan constitution, leading a group whose weapons were the tools of the artisans (Xenophon Hellenica 3.3.7). Lacking any independent political identity, the artisans are regulated by the city, rather than participating as a group in its governance.

[ back ] 78. Note also the linkage between the artisans and ξένοι “guests, foreigners,” Laws 848a3–4, 849d4–5.

[ back ] 79. In addition, it is the two tutelary deities of the artisans, Athena and Hephaestus, who preside over the city in the Timaeus and the Critias. And like the gods, the artisans have a right to be paid and to collect interest if it is late, a practice usually forbidden in the Laws (921a–d). See Vidal-Naquet 1986d:231, 233.

[ back ] 80. See Morrow 1954:5–23.

[ back ] 81. For πειθώ “persuasion” (and ἀπάτη “deception”) as the powers of Aphrodite, see the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 7, 33. With the Sophists’ ability to “make the worse argument seem the better” compare the Muses’ ability to speak “false things (ψεύδεα) like (ὁμοῖα) to real things” (Theogony 27–28). For the linkage of rhetorical and erotic persuasion in the rhetorician Gorgias’ Praise of Helen, see “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought” in this collection. For rhetoric as the dêmiourgos of persuasion, see Plato Gorgias 453a2, 454a4–5, 454e9–455a1. On the relation between “necessity” and “persuasion” in the Timaeus, see Morrow 1965.

[ back ] 82. Compare Timaeus 68e4–5, where the dêmiourgos is said to use necessary (as opposed to divine) causes as ὑπηρετούσαις “subordinates, ministers” in his “building (τεκταινόμενος) of the good in all things that come into being.”

[ back ] 83. Compare the use of this verb in Aristotle’s embryological contest between the sexes: “whenever the [male] principle (ἀρχὴ) does not gain mastery (κρατῇ) and through lack of heat is unable to concoct and lead [the matter] into its own proper form (εἶδος), but in this it is subordinated (ἡττηθῇ ‘made inferior’), it must change into its opposite. The female is opposite of the male, and [it is so] in that by which one is male, and the other female” (Generation of Animals 766a18–22). See also above, n. 31.

[ back ] 84. On Necessity as a divine power and principle of irregular and unpredictable movement, see Cornford 1937:163–177. On the homelessness of the Sophists, see Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:278–279.

[ back ] 85. To endow the circular cosmos with the motions proper to νοῦς “intelligence” and φρόνησις “thought,” the Demiurge removes these six-directional movements and makes the cosmic “body” ἀπλανὲς “free from wandering” (Timaeus 34a1–5).

[ back ] 86. See Timaeus 48e2–49a4: “So let the new beginning (ἀρχή) of the universe be divided more than the one before: for then we distinguished two forms (εἴδη), but now we must disclose another, third kind (τρίτον γένος). For the two were sufficient for what was said before: one form supposed (ὑποτεθέν) as that of the model (παραδείγματος), intelligible and always being the same; and the second, as the copy (μίμημα) of the model, possessing becoming (γένεσιν) and visible. Then we did not distinguish a third, considering that the two would be sufficient. But now the account (λόγος) seems to introduce the necessity (εἰσαναγκάζειν) of trying to show forth in words (λόγοις ἐμφανίσαι) a difficult and obscure form (εἶδος).”

[ back ] 87. Between the two assertions of the necessity of speaking more clearly, Timaeus links the problem of speaking about khôra with that of how to speak of the four elements: terms like “this” or “that” denoting perdurable being should be used not of the four elements (fire, earth, air, and water), since these are ever-changing qualities, but only of “that in which (ἐν ᾧ … ἐκεῖνο) each of these things always coming into being appears and then vanishes from there again” (Timaeus 49e7–50a1).

[ back ] 88. The νοῦς as “father,” “demiurge” (δημιουργὸς πατήρ τε ἔργων, Timaeus 41a7), and “poet” (Timaeus 28c3), the gods as his “children” (Timaeus 42e6–8), Being as a “model,” Becoming as a “copy” (Timaeus 48e3–49a1).

[ back ] 89. The prejudicial assimilation of architecture to sculpture in Western philosophy is founded here – the stone σῆμα “sign” of Zeus being lost under the rubric of “mythology” to the tradition of philosophy and architectural theory. See Kipnis “Twisting the Separatrix” in Choral Works 1997:137–160 for the Hegelian hierarchy of architecture as unsublimated sculpture and its influence on Derrida’s contributions to Choral Works.

[ back ] 90. See Timaeus 50a5–b8: “For if someone should mould all figures (σχήματα) out of gold and not cease moulding each of them into all the rest, and if someone should point to one of them and ask what it is then, it is by far most secure in relation to truth to say that it is gold, and – of the triangle and as many other figures as have come into being – never to speak of these as being, which indeed are changing even while someone asserts their being. Instead we should be content if ever they are willing to receive even the description “what is of such a quality” with any security. Indeed the same account (λόγος) applies also to the nature (φύσεως) that receives (δεχομένης) all bodies (σώματα). It must itself always be called the same (ταὐτὸν … προσρητέον). For it never stands apart (ἐξ-ίσταται) at all from its own power (δυνάμεως).”

[ back ] 91. See Timaeus 50b8–c4: “For it both always receives (δέχεται) all things and never in any way whatsoever has it taken on (εἴληφεν) any shape (μορφὴν) like (ὁμοίαν) to any of those going in. For by nature (φύσει) it is there for everything as a plastic medium (ἐκμαγεῖον “that which wipes off, that in or on which an impression is made”), moved (κινούμενον) and figured (διασχηματιζόμενον) by those going in, and through those it appears (φαίνεται) to be of different qualities at different times.”

[ back ] 92. See Timaeus 50c4–6: “The things going in (εἰσιόντα) and going out (ἐξιόντα) are copies (μιμήματα) of the eternal things, impressions (τυπωθέντα ‘things formed by impress, moulded, typed’) from them in a certain way that is hard to explain and marvelous, which we will pursue again.”

[ back ] 93. See Odyssey iv 140–146. Compare Works and Days 182, where the evils of the Iron Age of humankind include a father who is not ὁμοίιος “like” his children, and Works and Days 235, where justice in the city is manifested by women giving birth to children who are ἐοικότα “like” their parents (on both usages, see West 1978:215–216 on 235 and Aristotle Generation of Animals 767b6, where any child who is not ἐοικὼς “like” its parents is a τέρας “monstrosity”).

[ back ] 94. See Timaeus 50d4–e1: “And it is necessary to understand that if the impression (ἐκτυπώματος “that which is modeled out”) is going to be visually varied with every diversity, the thing itself in which (τοῦτ’ αὐτὸ ἐν ᾧ) it stands modeled out (ἐκτυπούμενον) would in no way be well prepared except by being without the shape (ἄ-μορφον) of all the forms it is going to receive (δέχεσθαι) from elsewhere (πόθεν).”

[ back ] 95. See Timaeus 50e1–4: “For if it were like (ὅμοιον) any of those going in, whenever those of an opposite or wholly other nature came, in receiving them it would copy (ἀφομοιοῖ “make like”; compare ἀφομοιούμενον Timaeus 50d1) them badly (κακῶς) by making its own aspect appear besides (παρεμφαῖνον).”

[ back ] 96. See Timaeus 50e4–8: “Therefore it is necessary that what is going to receive all the kinds (γένη) in itself must be free from (ἐκτὸς “outside”) all the forms (εἰδῶν), just as in the case of unguents – as many as they contrive by skill to make sweet-smelling – they create this condition first: that the waters about to receive the scents are completely without smell.”

[ back ] 97. See Timaeus 50e8–51a1: “And as many as try to take impressions (ἀπομάττειν “wipe off”; compare ἐκμαγεῖον, Timaeus 50c2) of figures (σχήματα) in any of the soft substances allow absolutely no figure (σχῆμα) to be visible, but by leveling it first they make it as smooth as possible.”

[ back ] 98. The copies that constitute γένεσις “becoming” must be καλός, for the Demiurge who created the universe of becoming is himself ἄριστος “most good, well-born, brave,” and it is not θέμις “what is put or placed as law” for anyone who is ἄριστος to do anything except the κάλλιστον “what is most καλός” (Timaeus 30a6–7). For the Demiurgic construction as κάλλιστα, see also Republic 530a5.

[ back ] 99. See Timaeus 51a1–6: “So, in the same way, to that which is going to receive beautifully (καλῶς) many times over the entirety of itself the copies (ἀφ-ομοιώματα “that which is made like”) of all the eternal things it belongs also to be by nature (πεφυκέναι) free from all the forms (εἰδῶν). For this reason, then, the mother (μητέρα) and receptacle (ὑποδοχὴν) of what has become visible and in every way perceptible we must not call earth or air or fire or water nor any of their compounds or components.”

[ back ] 100. On this passage, see Brisson 1974:197–208. In his analysis of the “connaissance du milieu spatial” Brisson argues that khôra “participates in the intelligible” insofar as she, like Being, is forever imperishable and thus knowledge of her can be certain, but “most insolubly” because she is without an intelligible Form (ἄ-μορφον). The description of khôra as “third kind” specifies her condition as eternal and indestructible: “And then there is the third kind, being that of the eternal khôra (ὂν τὸ τῆς χώρας ἀεί), not admitting destruction (φθορὰν οὐ προσδεχόμενον) but providing a seat for all things, as many as have becoming (γένεσιν),” Timaeus 52a8–b1. The description continues with a critical account of how this “third kind” is known: “And it [is] graspable (ἁπτὸν) without sense-perception (μετ’ ἀναισθησίας) by a certain bastard logic (λογισμῷ τινι νόθῳ), hardly an object of belief (μόγις πιστόν), toward which indeed looking we also dream (πρὸς ὃ δὴ καὶ ὀνειροπολοῦμεν βλέποντες),” (Timaeus 52b1–3). Brisson understands λογισμῷ τινι νόθῳ “by a certain bastard logic” as employing the image of a numerical calculation (λογισμός) made illegitimate (νόθος) by the fact that it ends up in a number that does not exist, so as to indicate a logical calculation leading to the impossible fact that the khôra “participates in the intelligible” although there is no Form in which as a “father” she may participate. With regard to this interpretation it should be noted that the Greek term νόθος “bastard” describes not a child without a known father, but one whose parents are not married and who is thus deprived of citizenship and possibly of inheritance. The Greek “bastard” is a child deprived of the “father function” as a social construction. The logic leading to khôra ends in a form (εἶδος, Timaeus 51a7) that is not a Form. The text goes on to explain this “bastard logic.” Reinforcing μετ’ ἀναισθησίας “without sense-perception,” μόγις πιστόν “hardly an object of belief” reiterates that khôra does not belong to the realm of Becoming of which knowledge can be only variable “belief.” Rather, our illegitimate reasoning about khôra takes the form of a dream. The phrase πρὸς ὃ δὴ καὶ ὀνειροπολοῦμεν βλέποντες “toward which indeed looking we also dream” does not mean, as the phrase is understood by Brisson (“the representation that we make for ourselves of it is related to a dream,” 201–202) and Derrida (“here is how one catches a glimpse of chôra . . . as in a dream,” “Chôra” 1987a:272), that we see khôra as in a dream, that is, that the dream is the cognitive mode proper to khôra. Rather, the dream is here, as elsewhere in Plato, a mode of cognitive error, specifically, a failure to distinguish copy from model, semblance from true Form (see, for example, Republic 414d5, 476c2–d3, 533b1–c5, 534c6-7, Theaetetus 158b1–d4). The image of the dream continues, as the mistaken understanding of khôra is specified: “toward which indeed looking we also dream (πρὸς ὃ δὴ καὶ ὀνειροπολοῦμεν βλέποντες) and say that everything that exists (τὸ ὂν ἅπαν) must somehow be in some place (τόπῳ) and possess a certain khôra, and that what is neither in the earth nor somewhere in heaven does not exist. Because of this dreaming we are not able, even when awakened, to speak the truth by making all the following distinctions indeed and others cognate with them even concerning the sleepless and truly existing nature: namely that, for a likeness (εἰκόνι), since the thing itself on the basis of which it has come into being is not its own and it is moved always as the semblance (φάντασμα) of something else, for these reasons it is proper to come into being in something else, by clinging in some way to existence, or be itself in no way at all; but for what is really existing, the accurately true account is an ally: as long as the two [the εἰκών “likeness, copy” and its model] are distinct, neither ever will come into being in the other and become at once one and the same thing, and two,” (Timaeus 52b3–d1). The point is that we apprehend khôra by supposing that every Being must be somewhere, but it is in fact only the εἰκών “likeness, copy” of Being that requires khôra in which to be born. We dream in mistaking the copy’s need for that of its model.

[ back ] 101. The term intimates a link between khôra and mêtis via hunting, in which nets, traps, and reversals, both material and mental, enact the “circular reciprocity” between the hunter and the hunted. See Detienne and Vernant 1978:27–54 and Brisson 1974:199. For the “hunting” of the sophist as master of rhetorical feints and shape-shifting, see Plato Sophist 218d–223b.

[ back ] 102. Thus precluding the main-tenant of architecture. See above, n. 5.

[ back ] 103. Compare the Aristotelian teleology in the Vitruvian ideal of the temple as reproducing the proportions of the body of a hominis bene figurati “well-shaped man” at De Architectura 3.1.5, where the body parts providing the crucial dimensions are said to have been grouped by the Greeks into the “perfect number which the Greeks call teleon.”

[ back ] 104. Derrida closes “Chôra (1987a:293) by quoting this passage from the Timaeus, having observed: “Homology or analogy at least formal, one more time: in order to think chôra, it is necessary to return to a beginning more ancient than the beginning, namely, the birth of the cosmos, just as the origin of the Athenians must be recalled to them from beyond their own memory. In that which it has of the formal, precisely, the analogy is declared: a concern for composition that is architectural, textual (histological) and even organic is presented as such a little further on.” This observation of the textual architecture of the Timaeus is not mentioned in the transcripts or discussed by Kipnis in “Twisting the Separatrix” in Choral Works 1997: 137–160. Nor does Derrida return to it in “Pourquoi Peter Eisenman écrit de si bons livres” (1987b).

[ back ] 105. Compare the gods’ creation of mortals by “weaving together (προσυφαίνοντες) mortal with immortal” (Timaeus 41d1–2) and the Demiurge as weaver at Timaeus 36d8-e2.

[ back ] 106. To gloss “the same place from which we have arrived here” Cornford (1937:280n2) writes: “The ‘same position’ is sensation and sense-perception, which we reached at the end of the first part (45b–47e), and have now reached again in the concluding paragraphs of the second part.” The résumé, in other words, is meant to cover only Part I of the account. It does include, however, elements from Part II: the disorder of the pre-cosmic chaos and the terminology of the cosmic order. See the translation below.

[ back ] 107. The passage is replete with architectural language: “For just as was said also at the beginning (κατ’ ἀρχὰς), because these things were in disorder (ἀτάκτως), in each itself in relation both to itself and to the others, the god created (ἐνεποίησεν) symmetries (συμμετρίας), both as many as and in whatever way it was possible for them to be analogous (ἀνάλογα) and symmetrical (σύμμετρα). For then (τότε) they had no share of these, except insofar as it happened by chance, and there was nothing at all of those things now named worthy of the name – like fire and water and the rest. But all these he put in order (διεκόσμησεν) for the first time, then from them constructed (συνεστήσατο) this totality, one living thing having all living things in itself both mortal and immortal. And of the divine things he himself was the artisan (δημιουργός), while the generation of mortal things he commanded his own offspring to fabricate (δημιουργεῖν). They, imitating him, took an immortal principle (ἀρχὴν) of soul, next framed (περιετόρνευσαν “turn as in a lathe”) a mortal body around it and gave the whole body as a vehicle and in this built in addition (προσῳκοδόμουν) another form (εἶδος) of soul, the mortal,” (Timaeus 69b2–c8).

[ back ] 108. For the operation of this structure in the composition of the Odyssey, see “Odyssean Temporality: Many (Re)Turns” in this collection.

[ back ] 109. For these categories of narratological analysis, see Genette 1980:25–32, whose original French terms are: histoire “story,” récit “narrative,” and narration “narration, narrating instance.”

[ back ] 110. This structure produces the “abyss” of narrative “encasings” (enchâssement) examined by Derrida to show how the multi-layered, chronological containments in the prologue of the Timaeus prefigure khôra as “receptacle of all becoming” (“Chôra” 1987a:282–290). Derrida enumerates: F1 (the whole dialogue entitled Timaeus) is a “receptacle” containing F2 (a dialogue yesterday, Timaeus 17a2), which contained F3 (the fictive model of an ideal city, Timaeus 17c1–3) – “a structure of inclusion makes of the included fiction the theme in some way of the prior fiction which is its including form, its capable container, let us say, its receptacle” (286) – and F4 (the young Critias mentioned an ancient story yesterday, Timaeus 20d1) containing F5 (the story told to the young Critias by his grandfather Critias – who heard it from Dropides, Timaeus 20e1–4, a layer not counted by Derrida) containing F6 (the story told to Dropides by Solon) containing F7 (the story told Solon by the Egyptian priest of the “amazing achievements” of Athens as recorded in Egyptian writings, Timaeus 20e5, 21d4–25d6). Derrida observes that “the whole of the Timaeus is thus scanned by these returns backward” (291), but does not observe the “return backward” that contains the pre-cosmic khôra.

[ back ] 111. Compare the Muses’ capacity to (re)present in its totality a past presence and sight in any present place.

[ back ] 112. The description of the pre-cosmic khôra follows a mini-recapitulation of the three ontological kinds and the assertion of their existence as “three in three ways” (τρία τριχῇ) “even before the birth of heaven” (Timaeus 52d2–4). The repetition of triadic form in the Timaeus is insistent. Timaeus himself is called the “third companion” (Timaeus 20d4). With the three sides of the Nile’s “Delta” (called khôra, Timaeus 22e2) – the inverted “delta” being a frequent symbol for the female genital in antiquity and later – compare Wittkower (1988:104–107) on the significance of the number “three” in Renaissance architectural theory with its Christian as well as Classical resonances.

[ back ] 113. It is important to note that while the λόγος “account, logic” makes it necessary to introduce khôra into the cosmology, there is no “logical” necessity for describing the prior condition of khôra. The necessity, rather, is architectural: to establish a temporal and qualitative difference between the two conditions.

[ back ] 114. See Timaeus 53a7–b7: “Indeed, on one hand, to be sure, in the time before this (καὶ τὸ μὲν δὴ πρὸ τούτου), all these were irrational (ἀ-λόγως “without rational account, logic”) and disproportionate (ἀ-μέτρως “without measure”). But when he took it in hand to order (κοσμεῖσθαι) the whole, fire first and water and earth and air – having some traces (ἴχνη “tracks”) of themselves, but in every way disposed as it is likely (εἰκὸς) that anything is, whenever the god is absent from it – these indeed being then (τότε) by nature in this condition, he for the first time (πρῶτον) shaped them (διεσχηματίσατο) by both forms (εἴδεσί) and numbers (ἀριθμοῖς). That the god constructed (συν-ιστάναι) them with the greatest possible beauty and excellence (κάλλιστα ἄριστά τε) out of what is not thus, beyond all else let this stand as asserted by us always.”

[ back ] 115. Compare Vitruvius’ list of the elements of architecture (De Architectura 1.2.1): “Now architecture consists of ordering (ordinatio) which in Greek is called τάξις, of design (dispositio) which the Greeks name διάθεσις, and of proportion (euruthmia) and symmetry (summetria) and correctness (decor) and allocation (distributio) which in Greek is called οἰκονομία.” On the meaning of these terms, see Rowland 1999:24–26, 143–151. Compare also the first of these elements, ordinatio or τάξις, with the description of the pre-cosmic condition by the alpha-privatives ἀ-τάκτως “without ordering” and ἀ-ταξία “lack of ordering” (Timaeus 30a5). For the aesthetic and moral power of τάξις “ordering, arrangement” and κόσμος “order” and ἀταξία “lack of ordering” in the work of all dêmiourgoi, including architects, see Gorgias 503d6–504a9: 


Socrates: The good man, who aims toward speaking the best in whatever he speaks, will he speak not at random anything else, but looking toward something? Just like all other dêmiourgoi as well, looking toward their own work – each selects and brings forth the things he brings forth for that work of his not at random, but so that this thing which he is working on may have its certain form. For example, if you wish to look at painters, house-builders, ship-builders, and all other dêmiourgoi, any one of them you wish, how each places each thing he places in a certain arrangement (τάξιν) and compels the one to be fitting and to harmonize with the other, until he has constructed (συστήσηται < σύν + ἵστημι “make stand together”) a whole thing both arranged (τεταγμένον, compare τάξις) and ordered (κεκοσμημένον, compare κόσμος). And also indeed the other dêmiourgoi and those whom we were just now mentioning, those concerning the body, both the trainers and the doctors, they too bring order (κοσμοῦσί) somehow and arrangement (συντάττουσιν) to the body. Do we agree that this is so or not?

Callias: Let this be as you say.

Socrates: If a house should achieve arrangement (τάξεως) and order (κόσμου), it would be good (χρηστὴ “useful, honest, beneficent”), but if lack of arrangement (ἀταξίας), then bad (μοχθηρά “wretched, unsafe, wicked”).

Callias: Right.


For the pre-architectural khôra as an alpha-privative condition of ἀν-ωμαλία “lack of the same level, anomaly,” see below, n. 119.

[ back ] 116. For mathematics in architectural training, see Vitruvius De Architectura 1.1.4.

[ back ] 117. For example, the εἶδος “form” of a triangle has a certain ἀριθμός “number” of sides.

[ back ] 118. For such representation as the philosophical paradigm of architecture, compare Wigley 1989:12: “The eventual status of architecture as a discipline began to be negotiated by the first texts of architectural theory, which drew on the canons of the philosophical tradition to identify the proper concern of the newly constituted figure of the architect with drawing (disegno) that mediates between the idea and the building, the formal and the material, the soul and the body, the theoretical and the practical.”

[ back ] 119. See Timaeus 52d4–e3: “Indeed the nurse of becoming, being made wet and fiery and receiving (δεχομένην) the shapes (μορφὰς) of both earth and air, and experiencing all the other conditions that accompany these, appeared by sight to be of every sort. And because of being filled with powers (δυνάμεων) neither alike (ὁμοίων) nor of equal balance (ἰσορρόπων), in no part of herself was she equally balanced (ἰσορροπεῖν).” Contrast the ideal of symmetrical balance in Classical proportions.

[ back ] 120. See Timaeus 52e3–5: “But swaying unevenly everywhere (ἀνωμάλως πάντῃ ταλαντουμένην) she herself was shaken (σείεσθαι) by these powers, and by being moved (κινουμένην) she shook them (σείειν) again in turn (αὖ πάλιν).” Compare Timaeus 57e1–58a1 for motion as requiring a lack of ὁμαλότης “evenness” between mover and moved. By the term ἀνώμαλος, khôra is again described by an alpha-privative: ἀ(ν)- “not” + ὁμαλός “even, level.” Both ὁμαλός and ὅμοιος “same, equal, like” derive from the root ὁμο- “one and the same.” The ἀνωμαλία of khôra precludes concomitant spatial and temporal “sameness” and thus Platonic truth.

[ back ] 121. See Timaeus 52e5–53a6: “Because of being moved (κινούμενα), they were continually separated and carried in different directions – just as when things are shaken (σειόμενα) and winnowed (ἀνικμώμενα) by baskets (πλοκάνων “woven winnowing basket”) and tools (ὀργάνων) for the cleaning of corn, the thick and heavy go in one direction, and the thin and light are carried into another place and settle there. At that time (τότε) in the same way the four kinds (γένη, that is, pre-cosmic water, fire, earth, and air) were shaken (σειόμενα) by her who received them, with herself being moved like a tool producing (παρέχοντος) a shaking, so as to separate (ὁρίζειν) the most unlike (ἀν-ομοιότατα) kinds farthest from one another and to thrust the most alike (ὁμοιότατα) close together into the same place.” On the πλόκανον “woven winnowing basket” and its relation to the cult of Demeter, see Cornford 1937:199–202.

[ back ] 122. Compare Vlastos 1965:395–396.

[ back ] 123. The criticism by Vlastos (1965:390) of the usage of ἴχνη “footprints” as “self-contradictory” misses the (attempted) differentiation between a cosmos in which the putative stability of opposites makes contradiction possible and the “anomaly” of pre-cosmic “choral work.”

[ back ] 124. Compare Vlastos 1965:395n2.

[ back ] 125. Compare Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:292: “The strange (insolite) difficulty of this whole text derives from (tient à) the distinction between these two modalities: the true and the necessary.”

[ back ] 126. Transcript One, New York, September 17, 1985, Choral Works 1997:7: “In my own work I have been mounting a critique of the systematic privileging of anthropocentric origins. As well as looking at questions of scale, I have regulated the concept of function as origin in the traditions of architectural aesthetics, which reinforce the status of anthropocentric origins such as scale and function … Traditional architectural aesthetics takes for granted hierarchy, closure, symmetry and regularity, thus foreclosing the possibility of dissonance, non-closure, non-hierarchy, and so on. For me, this is no longer tenable.”

[ back ] 127. The editor prints “classical” rather than “Classical” in the proofs of Transcript, but the tradition in which Eisenman is trained and which he critiques is that of Western Classicism and thus the capitalized form would best render his meaning graphically.

[ back ] 128. Transcript One, New York, September 17, 1985, Choral Works 1997:9.

[ back ] 129. Transcript One, New York, September 17, 1985, Choral Works 1997:9: “So, let me go very quickly to the single idea I have. When Tschumi asked me to participate in this project, I was excited, but at the same time, I was totally, totally empty. I mean, I had no ideas at all. I was in the midst of writing a text in homage to the philosopher Jean-Pierre Vernant, which had to do with something I taught twelve years ago concerning a very enigmatic passage in the Timaeus, a passage which has amazed generations of philosophers. In it, Plato discusses a certain place. The name for this singularly unique place is chôra.”

[ back ] 130. Compare Kipnis’ aim in analyzing khôra, “Twisting the Separatrix” in Choral Works 1997:153: “Deconstruction is not destruction, it does not pursue the separatrix to destroy it and the laws it enables; it does not seek the chaos which would result from the destruction of either the separatrix or chôra. It seeks, instead, to expose the hidden agenda behind an untenable reification of the order that the separatrix imposes. Deconstruction questions the repressions of the instability that the separatrix, like chôra, reflects into order, making order possible. Deconstruction, returning to Nietzsche’s question, “What if truth were a woman?” respects the mark for what it/she is.” My deconstruction of the institution of khôra does not destroy her, but exposes the valorization of Platonic order made possible by the maintenance of choral stability and the repression of choral instability in “respecting the mark for what it/she is.”

[ back ] 131. Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:268: “While giving place to oppositions, she herself would never submit herself to any reversal. And that, another consequence, not because she would be inalterably herself but because in going beyond the polarity of meaning (metaphorical or proper), she would no longer belong to the horizon of meaning, nor of meaning as the meaning of being.”

[ back ] 132. Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:270–271.

[ back ] 133. Compare Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:268–269, especially: “It would be a question of a structure and not of some essence of the chôra, the question of essence no longer having any meaning on the subject of her. The chôra, we will say, is anachronic, she “is” the anachrony in being – better – the anachrony of being. She anachronizes being.”

[ back ] 134. Kipnis (“Twisting the Separatrix” in Choral Works 1997:152) notes the “absolute anteriority” of khôra, but does not deconstruct the institution of a moment when “all true movement begins”: “… chôra is neither word nor concept, neither proper noun nor common noun, and it is a condition of absolute anteriority. Moreover, though Derrida treats of it only in passing, chôra shakes, shakes the whole, separating before the separation; it is movement before movement begins, since in the Timaeus all true movement begins with the world-soul and comes after the Demiurge does his work. Yet chôra shakes and orders even the chaos.” Similarly, Kipnis’ account of the relation between khôra and the Demiurgic inscription – “Chôra has no existence, no pure being anterior to and free from inscription, outside of rhetoric and trope: it is, though it is only and always in the text as before it” (152) – is not contradicted by the choral “movement before movement begins” only if “existence” and “pure being” begin with that inscription.

[ back ] 135. Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:278–279.

[ back ] 136. Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:269.

[ back ] 137. Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:271.

[ back ] 138. Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:266.

[ back ] 139. Derrida reiterates the metaphorical status of both categories of language, but privileges that of “impression or printing.” See, for example, Transcript One, New York, September 17, 1985, Choral Works 1997:9–10: “To discuss this, he has to use what generations of philosophers have called “metaphors,” though I do not think they are metaphors. These are the mother, the matrix or the nurse. You can compare, he says, the paradigm with the father, the sensible world with the child or the infant, and chôra, this place of inscription, with the mother or nurse. But these are only metaphors, because they are borrowed from the sensible world. So chôra is not the mother, nor the nurse who nurtures infants.” Derrida continues a moment later (10): “Chôra is the spacing which is the condition for everything to take place, for everything to be inscribed. The metaphor of impression or printing is very strong and recognizable in this text. It is the place where everything is received as an imprint.”

[ back ] 140. The quality of “virginity” can, of course, be male: compare the Greek noun παρθένος indicating either a male or female virgin, depending upon the gender of the article used with it. But in apposition with “inaccessible” and “impassive,” “virginity” appears, as in the passage cited above (“Is the value of a receptacle not also associated, like passive and virgin matter, with the feminine element, and precisely in Greek culture”), to be intended as female here.

[ back ] 141. See Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:269. See also Derrida’s use of the term “virgin” in Transcript One, New York, September 17, 1985, Choral Works 1997:10: “What interests me is that since chôra is irreducible to the two positions, the sensible and the intelligible, which have dominated the entire tradition of Western thought, it is irreducible to all the values to which we are accustomed – values of origin, anthropomorphism, and so on. I insist on the fact of this non-anthropomorphism of chôra. Why? Because chôra looks as though it were giving something, ‘giving’ place … yet Plato insists that in fact it has to be a virgin place, and that it has to be totally foreign, totally exterior to anything that it receives. Since it is absolutely blank, everything that is printed on it is automatically effaced … Everything inscribed in it erases itself immediately, while remaining in it.”

[ back ] 142. See Timaeus 51a7–b2, translated above.

[ back ] 143. For maintenant as a virtual “technical term” in Derrida’s philosophy of architecture, see above, n. 5.

[ back ] 144. Transcript Two, Paris, November 8, 1985, Choral Works 1997:35. See also Transcript Four, New York, April 3, 1986 (71):


PE: As Thomas will tell you, La Villette is a killer project. The theoretical paradigms which you set up are so difficult to make.

JD: Do not worry; it is an impossible program for architecture. It is the challenge in itself that is important.

[ back ] 145. It should be noted that material works of architecture always achieve the goal set here by philosophy – they always “give the receiver, the visitor, the possibility of thinking about architecture.” And indeed, in its manipulations of scale, ground, and solid and void, in relation to time, place, and authorship, the project designed by Eisenman, described below, like many of his works, stimulates the pondering of architectural verities.

[ back ] 146. Transcript Four, New York, April 3, 1986, Choral Works 1997:70.

[ back ] 147. With Derrida’s use of the term “virgin” here, compare above, n. 140.

[ back ] 148. Derrida’s “feminine slip” here, printed in the original transcript of the meeting, is corrected by the editor to “paradigm” in the published text of Transcript Four.

[ back ] 149. Transcript Four, New York, April 3, 1986, Choral Works 1997:70.

[ back ] 150. Derrida “Chôra” 1987a:273: “Simply that excess is nothing, nothing which may be or be said ontologically. That absence of support, that one cannot translate into absent support or into absence as support, provokes and resists every binary or dialectic determination, any examination [arraisonnement] of a philosophical type, let us say more rigorously, of an ontological type.”

[ back ] 151. For the locus classicus in Vitruvius, see De Architectura 3.1.5.

[ back ] 152. For Choral Works as an instance of Eisenman’s “scaling” method, as practiced in the “Romeo and Juliet” and “Long Beach Museum” projects, and for a defense of this design process as “avoid[ing] the trap of architectural totalization (not literary totalization) by replacing the universalizing discourse which drives traditional design with a local fiction,” see Kipnis, “Twisting the Separatrix” in Choral Works 1997:140–144.

[ back ] 153. Transcript One, September 17, 1985, Choral Works 1997:7.

[ back ] 154. Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:77.

[ back ] 155. Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:77.

[ back ] 156. Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:77. Lesser also explains fictional site one / column 2 (78): “Let’s look at site one (column 2). Venice, which appears at the top, is scaled up, is solid, and is the highest. It is the future plan. The only part of Venice which you will see is the canal of Venice as a wall, three or four metres high. Bernard’s scheme, the second element in the column, is at full scale, since it is in the present, and solid, but it only comes a little bit out of the ground … La Villette, the third element in the column, is also in the present, but as a small void. It is a receptacle, as in its superposition it is both the wall of Paris and the canal. Peter’s scheme, the bottom element in the column, is the past, and is a deeper void.

[ back ] 157. Lesser and Eisenman observe (Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:78):


TL: For [fictional] site two (column 3) … If you look at this diagram in which La Villette [2] is scaled down to make the squares in Bernard’s project [1] the same size as those in Peter’s [4], the Parisian abattoirs seem to be at the right scale, but they aren’t. The Parisian abattoirs are so much bigger than the ones in Venice, that when you scale Paris down, the abattoirs appear to be at the same scale.

PE: Which is nice.

TL: Yes, it is a reversal of reality and meaning.

PE: You get this terribly strange play of scale and reality, as if half is always at the same scale and half not, as if something terrible has happened.

[ back ] 158. Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:78.

[ back ] 159. Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:79.


JD: To put it in an abstract way, I would be interested in a way of opening the dimension of either the future or the past in such a way that they could never be integrated into the totality as present-future or present-past. In that way, the relationship to the future could be totally open; this could motivate the visitor to stop and read, and even gain a virtual perception of the whole.

Eisenman describes “virtual perception of the whole” as a feature of Classical architecture:

PE: Traditional architecture provides a virtual perception of the whole. When you walk through a Palladian plan, you schematize it in your mind – you don’t have to walk through the whole building to understand its symmetries. The somatic memory puts these things together. Classical architecture always provided parts in different places to allow the whole scheme to be put together. What Jacques is saying is that maybe there could be something in each piece that would provide an aperture, a kind of opening to nowhere.

TL: That breaks the circle.

[ back ] 160. Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:80.

[ back ] 161. Transcript Five, New Haven, April 21, 1986, Choral Works 1997:80.

[ back ] 162. Note that in Plato’s text, no analogue of the pre-Platonic khôra, neither the baskets (πλοκάνων) nor the tools (ὀργάνων) for the cleaning of corn, “separates things into the world of the sensible and intelligible.”

[ back ] 163. See Transcript Six, New York, January 10, 1987, Choral Works 1997:92.