Volume 4, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Luis O. Arata
Modeling Environments Through Narrative
This article examines how narratives mediate human interactions with environments to create a sense of place and identity. We begin with a review of the Greek poem Phaenomena to see how constellations brought a human dimension to the cosmos as well as a sense of predictability. A review of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea illustrates the conception of indifferent space that erases the human presence, and how the imagination comes into play to fill the void. We examine how narratives work to model aspects of environments and draw out meaning where before there was raw substance. Two seminal poems of Baudelaire then present a more subjective modeling of the environment. Pablo Neruda let his poetic vision be reflected in his three homes as protective playgrounds for his imagination. The article concludes that the models we examined are sheltering niches that help us feel at home in the world. As environments turn out to be more interactive, fragile, and complex than previously thought, our narratives also have to reflect on their impact on the sense of home they propose.