Trap Rooms Redux

[Image: An old asylum and its floorplan, courtesy of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, otherwise unrelated to the present post].

We recently looked at the phenomenon of trap rooms, but that same idea came to mind again while reading about an interestingly architectural anxiety.

Amongst the many illnesses pushed to the limit by schizophrenic judge Daniel Paul Schreber—a figure who should be familiar to all readers of Deleuze & Guattari—was a kind of architectural paranoia. That is, Judge Schreber suffered an “anxious concern,” as Victoria Nelson explains in her book The Secret Life of Puppets, “about the physical layout of the clinics in which he was housed (whose floor plans he includes in the Memoirs) and his occasional conviction that he was in a room that ‘does not tally with any one of the rooms known to me’ in the asylum.”

He was inside the building, sure—but he was inside something else, an architectural circumstance he could neither abstractly understand nor spatially fathom. Perhaps, we might say, it was a trap room: a space neither here nor there, off the plan entirely, part of the very structure it will remain forever outside of.

8 thoughts on “Trap Rooms Redux”

  1. "a figure who should be familiar to all readers of Deleuze & Guattari"

    Is this reference really necessary? It'd be one thing if you were actually engaging with their ideas, but alas…

    Well, we're verrrrryyy impressed.

  2. Anonymous, if you want to see someone "actually engage with their ideas," I suggest you go read someone else's blog; this site isn't about Deleuze & Guattari, and has never claimed to be.

    Meanwhile, if you think casually referring to books is an attempt to "impress" strangers, then I might suggest you have a nice career ahead of you as a spokesperson for the Tea Party. Oh no, not another reference to books! You elitist, you!

  3. Geoff, I think his point was more that your reference to Deleuze and Guattari was a kind of half-assed attempt at 'intellectualizing' your post while not contributing anything to its content.

    I don't really understand how you connected that comment to the Tea Party. Maybe I missed something.

  4. How does a fleeting reference to Deleuze & Guattari "intellectualize" something? If I had said that Judge Schreber had served as the inspiration for a character in Blade II—which is not true for all I know—would I be accused either of showing-off my pop cultural knowledge or of deliberately dumbing down the discourse? Judge Schreber appears frequently in Anti-Oedipus; get over it.

    And it's the very idea that admitting you've read a book constitutes "intellectualizing" that inspired my half-assed mention of the Tea Party. God forbid someone has read a book! They must be intellectualizing!

  5. I'm almost afraid to mention it now, but reading the post reminded me of something W G Sebald mentions in his book, Austerlitz:

    'The building of this singular architectural monstrosity [the Palace of Justice in Brussels], on which Austerlitz was planning to write a study at the time, began in the 1880s at the urging of the bourgeosie of Brussels, over-hastily and before the details of the grandiose scheme submitted by a certain Joseph Poelaert had been properly worked out, as a result of which, said Austerlitz, this huge pile of over seven hundred thousand cubic metres contains corridors and stairways leading nowhere, and doorless rooms and halls where no-one would ever set foot, empty spaces surrounded by walls and representing the innermost secret of all sanctioned authority.'

  6. House of Leaves was mentioned in a comment on the original Trap Room post, but it resonates even more with the story of Judge Schreber. Mark Danielewski's book explores the sort of paranoid-delusional architectural programs that grow in a building that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. It's both fascinating and creepy.

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