All throughout this semester we have been reading and studying literature from some of the best authors of the 19th century. These authors wrote many classics that we have grown to love over the course of time, but when this semester came we were challenged by other works of literature that were perhaps more meaningful to them than any of their other works, perhaps even of those put in the cannon. These works of literature represent the places and spaces that they experienced in their lives. The experiences that these authors had in these places and spaces are what made them the authors that they are known as today. These readings made me realize something. I am and will become much more than what others will see through my life’s accomplishments. Like Twain and Thoreau, the only way that people will really know me is by knowing where I have come from and understanding the subconscious thoughts and feelings that come from where I have been. “But what is a space and a place? I mean I know what they are but what is significant about those two words? What is the difference and why does it matter?” In this blog posting I am going to tell you what the differences are. I’m not completely sure that I understand but I will be using some writings about some of the places and spaces that I have been a part of in my life and I will be comparing them with Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space” in order to explore it with you.
In my first paper, “Bump in the Sand,” I wrote about an experience that I had in Long Beach California in a place that I had to find for a time of reflection. I wrote about the first time that I discovered the spot, known as “the bump in the sand,” that I would go back to every Sunday night for the rest of the ten weeks that I was there that summer to reflect by myself. In all reality I could have had this experience anywhere, but the fact that I had it in that spot is what made it so memorable to me, which, from what I understand, is what made it a place. A place is not necessarily about the tangible spot of where it occurs. A place is more about what happened there or what experience it brings you back to. For me it was a time of growth. A place is that it is something that I can still go back to without traveling all the way to Long Beach, California. I can go back to that place simply by recalling the memories and looking at the change that has occurred in my life. Hanging in my bedroom I have a picture of this bump in the sand. When I look at it I don’t begin to think of how high quality the sand was or how much fun it was to dig a comfortable spot into it. When I look at that picture I see the first time that I reflected on my life and how wonderful of an experience it was. I see the at risk kids that I worked with in order to keep out of gang violence. I see starving people getting something to eat because I was willing to spend $2,800 to go to California and help them. Most of all, I see change. I see a portrait of my life before I went to Long Beach and the person that I became as a result it. As you can see, not much of what I said has to do with a bump of sand. That is what makes it a place; because it is not what happened in that tangible location, but the awe-inspiring experience and the realization that I had while I was there.
In my second paper, “The House,” I wrote about the house that I grew up in. In my paper I described driving back to the spot that my house had been demolished and imagining that I was walking through my childhood home while actually walking on the parking lot that was now in its place. I wrote about the memories that it brought back both good and bad. I talked about the significance of each individual room and the memories that they brought back. Even today, I can imagine everything in that house exactly the way it was when I left it. At the time that I wrote that story I viewed my old house as a place because of the sentimental value and all of the memories that it brought back. From what I understood while writing this paper, a place was as I said in the previous paragraph, not just simply a geographic location, but one that brings you back to the memories and experiences that you had there. As a result I named my topic a place. But after further review and the reading of Bachelard’s “Poetics of Space,” I began to question myself. In poetics of space, Bachelard writes pretty descriptively about a house as a space. I wondered if I had it all wrong. Am I not understanding what the difference between what a space and a place is?
Now I am going to start into what may be a little bit controversial to what we have learned this semester, but I am going to go for it. I believe my second story, the one about the house, to be both a place and a space. “Why would I argue this and how would that work?” Here is my answer. From what I have assessed from the readings and from class discussion, a space is where something happens. It focuses more on the location or the area. For example: I could not call “the bump in the sand” a space because the story did not have anything to do with the actual bump in the sand. The experience that the bump of sand brought me back to had absolutely nothing to do with the location. I could have had that experience anywhere. However, the old house had everything to do with the location. It was literally because of the house that I was able to write that story. The location, the floor plan, and the city it was in, and the people that resided in it all had a crucial part to play in why I had the experiences that I had through it.
In “The Poetics of Space,” Bachelard writes:
"Of course, thanks to the house, a great many of our memories are housed, and if the house is a bit elaborate, if it has a cellar and a garret, nooks and corridors, our memories have refuges that are all the more clearly delineated. All our lives we come back to them in our daydreams.”
From what I can get out of this quote, as well as many others similar to it, I believe that Bachelard agrees with my proposal. A house, the geographic location, is important. But like he says, “thanks to the house, a great many of our memories are housed.” To me, this is saying that the house is more than just a space, but also a place, because it provides an emotional bond with the experiences had there.
To me comparing place and space is like comparing the house to the home. A house is the building. Years before the house was built, an architect was designing the floor layout, the dimensions, and the interior. Soon after, someone was choosing the location and the proper landscape for that location. All of this was done to provide a quality of shelter that would be worth purchasing and settling down in. The house was the provider, the space for the home.
"If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. "
- Gaston Bachelard
A home is, as is stated in the quote, what the house provides. Home is safety. Home is family. Home is much more than a geographic location. Home is a place. When I wrote about experiences in my life such as the times that me and my brothers would jump from our top bunk or the time when I found out that my mom had Multiple Sclerosis, I wasn’t talking about 1325 North Elizabeth Ave. I was talking about the Mark and Tammy Taylor Family at 1325 North Elizabeth Ave. It was all about the memories and experiences that I had there. The neat thing about a home is that no matter where the space is, you will always have a place to call home.
After going through the process of analyzing the difference between the space and place or the house and home, I am realizing that perhaps I should change the name of my previous story to “The Home,” because for the most part, that is the description that I gave it. In that paper I wrote many details about the experiences of which made me want to call it a place. Now I realize that it was much more than just place. It was also a space. It was also a house.
With the focus of my final paper focusing mostly on “The House,” you may be wondering why I even incorporated the first paper at all. The reason is because I wanted to give you something to compare it too. As I said earlier, “a bump in the sand,” is definitely more of a place and because of that fact, I wanted to include it in my final paper as an example of something that was not a space and gave the idea of what a home away from space can look like. It was very important to be able to contrast the place and space aspect with “bump in the sand,” while comparing the house and the home with Bachelard’s “poetics of space.”
My goal for this paper was that all of its readers would have a better understanding of the difference between space and place. As I believe I fairly well defined, a space is location that is meaningful to you mainly because it is attached to a place. A place a state of mind, usually one that roots in a particular space, that draws you to a life changing experience. I made the argument that “The house” was both a place and a space by using the analogy of the difference between a house and a home. Through the way that I have learned to interoperate space and place, I believe this to be, not only possible, but probable. In closing I would like to say that I hope that my explanation has helped you to better understand the difference between space and place and I trust that my argument was clear.