SIMULACRAL SPACES: FROM JERUSALEM TO LAS VEGAS


From Jerusalem to Las Vegas, there is a deep history of spaces that deploy objects, architecture, topography, and location to create simulacra of real and imagined sites. Looking at the deep history of such places, their theorization in critical theory, and its own local trajectory in Southern California, this course explores the importance of pilgrimage, tourism, and place-making in these artificial spaces and the connection to contemporaneous theories of representation and signification.

Beginning in Delphi and Luxor and moving on to medieval sites like Jerusalem, Constantinople, Sinai, Rome, and Venice, the aim is to explore how certain places construct experiences that seek to be detached from the realities of their environs. For example, in the Middle Ages, Jerusalem stood in for the Heavenly Jerusalem at the end of time, while also connecting Christian pilgrims to the ancient sites and experiences of Christ and other holy people. Cities, like Constantinople, rivaled Jerusalem given the relics they possessed, allowing visitors to experience people and places far removed. While sites like the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Sinai monumentalized contemporary Christian practice in connection to its pre-Christian archetypes. Across Europe, miniature replicas of the Holy Sepulcher were built to enable forms of virtual pilgrimage for those unable to partake in these experiences.

In the contemporary world, theme parks like the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL likewise seek to construct other Jerusalems as well by deploying artifacts and architectural constructions that reconfigure history within a culture of consumerism, where lines are blurred between tourism and pilgrimage. Whereas Mecca, on the other hand, actively erases historical traces and artifacts, contouring the experiences of the Hajj (and the Umrah) as purely oriented around site and cut-off from the historical index and the relic. Spaces, ranging from Disneyland to the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, often substantiate claims to authenticity through historical citation and reconstruction that either results in a mirage of verisimilitude or in the constitution of new illusory spaces, tied to pasts both real and imaginary. And, the experiences of land art build their own sites and non-sites of pilgrimage, muddled by difficult trips or unpredictable events, which come to contour the experience of the site and its quasi-miraculous manifestation. This course seeks to place modern and premodern practices in relief in order to consider how theories of Representation are contoured and contested by the cultural role and operation that such places enact.
Reading List (in order of appearance)

Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (University of Michigan Press, 1994)

Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality (Harcourt Brace, 1986)

Helen Morales, Pilgrimage to Dollywood: A Country Music Road Trip through Tennessee (University of Chicago Press, 2014)

Kate Durbin, E! Entertainment (Small Press Distribution, 2014)

Gary Vikan, From the Holy Land to Graceland: Sacred People, Places and Things in our Lives (The American Alliance of Museums Press, 2012)

Anabel Wharton, Selling Jerusalem: Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks (University of Chicago Press, 2006)

Christopher S. Wood, Forgery, Replica, Fiction: Temporalities of German Renaissance Art (University of Chicago Press, 2008)

Alexander Nagel and Christopher S. Wood, Anachronic Renaissance (Zone Books, 2010)

Matthew Avery Sutton, Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007)

Lynn Meskell, “Negative Heritage and Past Mastering in Archaeology,” Anthropological Quarterly 75:3 (Summer 2002): 557-574.

Gülru NecipoÄŸlu, “From Byzantine Constantinople to Ottoman Kostantiniyye: Creation of a Cosmopolitan Capital and Visual Culture under Sultan Mehmed II,” From Byzantion to Istanbul 8000 Years of a Capital, Istanbul, 2010, 262-277.

Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories of a City (Faber, 2005).

Holger A. Klein, “Refashioning Byzantium in Venice, ca. 1200-1400,” in Henry Maguire and Robert S. Nelson, eds., San Marco, Byzantium, and the Myths of Venice (Dumbarton Oaks Press, 2010), 193-225.

Lawrence Mlintz, “Simulated Tourism at Busch Gardens: The Old Country and Disney’s World Showcase, Epcot Center,” Journal of Popular Culture 32:3 (Winter 1998): 4-58.

Randal Sheppard, “Mexico Goes to Disney World: Recognizing and Representing Mexico at EPCOT Center’s Mexico Pavilion,” Latin American Research Review 51:3 (2016): 64-84.

Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972)