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Executive Function


The “Biological Analogy” in art history posits that styles in art and architecture are born and experience stages of infancy, youth, maturity, and decline, presumably followed by death. And while I observe that in the Renaissance, regarding the Gothic (i.e., Late Medieval), I’m not so sure. A good case can be made for the Gothic never having passed completely from the scene: Yes, there was a Gothic Revival during the 19th century, but the work of Antoni Gaudi might be understood as a survival, rather than a revival of the medieval mind set. In ARCH 322 this week we’re talking about the Renaissance, so the topic is on my mind.

Geoffrey Scott, author of The Architecture of Humanism, inventor of the biological analogy, probably didn’t know Freud, so would not have cluttered his writing with psychological spin, but I do wonder how the Analogy squares with “Executive Function.”  Would the work of a Late Renaissance architect like Michelangelo or a Baroque figure like Borromini be the product of diminished Executive Function?


The E.F. issue is part of our current dialogue concerning Mr Trump, presently occupying the White House and calling our attention to the very idea of higher brain functions. My thoughts as a layperson aren’t important—though you may guess my take on the matter—but they do raise concern about my own E.F. and the degree of its reliability. Raising the question itself is probably a good sign.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody

I must have been ten or eleven when I found a small paperback book among some books of doubtful appropriateness for a lad my age. Funny that the one I chose to read (and read and read again and again) was a book of humor by author Will Cuppy; it’s title, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. With chapter titles like “Ancient Greeks and Worse,” I was hooked. Today, on the eve of another birthday (but one that doesn’t end with “5” or “0”, so it doesn’t matter), Cuppy’s footnote-ridden text—the footnotes often occupy more than four times the text—has come home to roost. Today, far more than most days, I sense my own Decline and Fall—perhaps more of the latter right now.

By the way, I highly recommend Mr Cuppy to you for literary humor alone and nothing overtly psychological.

Dr Bob, my own personal Freud, attested the therapeutic value of Agincourt. “Call me,” he said, “when you begin packing for the move.” The day may very well come when that thought also crosses my mind—like Executive Function—but not today.


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