Aristotelian Streetscapes in the Rise of Modernity

  • Abraham AkkermanEmail author


This chapter points to a feminine thread that runs through the unfolding of European Neolithic round enclosures into market places of antiquity and the Middle Ages, and into the public sphere of the Enlightenment. As ceremonial sites of public rituals of fertility and solstice renewal, the Neolithic and Bronze Age round enclosures were often the communal celebration of the female. As cities emerged through the Bronze Age, often in a centrifugal pattern around the market place, the conscious notion of a plan most likely emerged as well. It was Aristotle who stopped short from attaching feminine, Dionysian and masculine, Apollonian, features to urban streetscapes. The two sharply contrasting streetscapes that Aristotle addresses in the Politics, give city-form something of an organic flair. On the one hand there are the rigidly elegant and aligned streets reminiscent of the Apollonian disposition of calm and calculated foresight, and on the other hand, the chaotic, crooked streets in poverty-stricken precincts of the city, where Dionysian unpredictability matches the erratic, unplanned narrow lanes and alleyways. Both Cartesian rationalism and British empiricism are shown in this chapter as associated with urban streetscapes and planning. Two millennia after Aristotle, an inevitable question had been posed by Sigmund Freud: can the city be considered a psychical entity? In time, Freud’s question was to be treated affirmatively by Henri Lefebvre, touching on the notions of public sphere by Jürgen Habermas, and public surveillance by Michel Foucault. In interaction with minds, urban voids have been a feminine conduit to the public sphere of the Enlightenment, while in later modernity urban voids became the masculine medium of surveillance and the display of power, often at city squares.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and PlanningUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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