‘Baltimore as World and Representation’
In a text from 1988, Fredric Jameson argues for the necessary emergence of what he calls ‘an aesthetics of cognitive mapping’: an aesthetic adequate to the highly ambitious – and he suggests ultimately impossible – task of depicting both social space in our historical moment – then described as late capitalism or postmodernity – and the totality of class relations on a global scale: what Jameson calls ‘a cartography of the absolute’. This notion of cognitive mapping builds on Kevin Lynch’s book from 1960, The Image of the City, and Jameson argues that an inability to cognitively map the contours of the world system is as debilitating politically as being unable to mentally map a city would be for a city dweller. The works that would emerge under the banner of this aesthetic would allow individual subjects and collectivities to understand their local situation in a globalised world: ‘to enable a situational representation on part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole’(6). While the works emerging under the aesthetic of cognitive mapping would not merely be didactic or pedagogical, they would necessarily also be didactic or pedagogical. While Jameson’s text remained speculative, as he claimed that no such works had yet been produced and that he could not even imagine what their formal characteristics might be, The Wire can be understood as one the most cogent attempts at producing a work classifiable under such an aesthetic.
Crossing my radar tonight: “Baltimore as World and Representation: Cognitive Mapping and Capitalism in The Wire.” Via Vu.