Monday, March 25, 2013

March Meeting (Hotel Theory)

Hotel Theory
by Wayne Koestenbaum



A Telecom Meeting

It's conference season! In accordance with the travel of many MATCH members, this month's meeting will be held via telecommute on "Hotel Theory" by Wayne Koestenbaum.

Readings have been sent out and available on the Facebook group, and a few key passages have been provided below for consideration. Attendants are invited to post replies to the thread for the next week, noting if or where they are/have/will be traveling.

The passages and questions below are meant primarily to provide a primer for discussion. As our talks often delve into personal experience and hover around the premise of the text as well as on the text itself, responses are welcome that share anecdotes from traveling as well as thoughts about the experience and theoretical position of hotels.


Hotel as Movement to Nowhere

"'Hotel is a method of not staying'...
we enter the euphoric state of 'never-dwelling anywhere.'
Hotel existence, because socially unattached, 
is silent, even amid noise" (4)

A communication from a hotel comes from nowhere.
The letterhead deceives, masks a lack of location" (7)

Nothing gets accomplished in a hotel room

The hotel room is unthinkable though I am trying to think of it.
I ponder the problem of the hotel room 
because I want to escape a closed system (10)

Question for Discussion: 
  1. What do we gain by imagining a hotel not as a static place but as a way of motion?
  2. What experiences of anonymity or placelessness have you experienced?



Hotel as Site of Exchange

The title of Frank O'Hara's poem 'Hotel Transylvanie'
suggests that transfusions and transfigurations occur in hotels:
Dracula, blood-mingling, identity swap.
In such hotels, guests share needles, bareback, and refuse 
all activities except for respiration and fornication" (6)

Hotel represents a failed relation to space.
In a hotel, we do not..."stay with things"
We depart from objects, they fall off us (17)

Anglophone writers take on frenchness 

when they post hotel as a locale of loss.
Hotel is where a french leaning poet can perform availability---
the provisional comfort a prostitute offers. (18)

Question for Discussion: 

  1. How does the invitation to imagine hotel-being as a state of perpetual exchange open us up to new ways of thinking and what dangers might come from this?
  2. What things have you given, taken, or changed while in a hotel-state?



Hotel as Assembled Body

A hotel is an arbitrary collection of human beings.
Like other city structures (stores, arcades)
hotels throw strangers together in chance arrangements....
a hotel's cast changes, but slower and with greater ceremony.
A hotel is a temporary finite set-- hence, a laboratory." (9)

Clearly I am afraid to check into Hotel Theory
I am hovering, nervous, at its threshold (12)

Literary form is a hotel room
sometimes opulent, more often austere (15)

Question for Discussion: 

  1. What might Hotel as a literary, social, or philosophical form help us to do or express differently than what the author opposes as "homeness?"
  2. How does the experience of reading the book perform  Hotel Theory (i.e. the audience, the philosophers cited, the split in the text left/right, etc)?


  1. While reading the excerpts from Koestenbaum’s “Hotel Theory” and considering the two columns of text, I started thinking of the function that conferences play in the academic life—presentations are a necessary part of our reality, and yet delving into a conference experience seems like transporting oneself to an alternate universe. Conference time, the conference hotel, the conference conversations at the convention hotel bar, managing the rigidly constructed schedule, and all the rest: these converge into something of a vacuum isolated from our normal, everyday experiences. We know, of course, that our home institutions exist, that we have relationships outside the hotel’s halls, and that this tumult of intellectual activity isn’t something native to our apartment buildings, commutes on Metro, trips to the store, etc.

    By all this, I mean that hotel time isn’t quite normal time. But it’s a useful way of thinking about how we adapt to the homeliness of a place that isn’t home, of how we can re-direct our disorientation into [what appears to be] a convincing cosmology, almost without thinking about it.

    The structure of the pages we have here does the same thing, but for the reader’s experiences: two columns of text, which results in two or more dissociated readings of the piece, and we automatically develop strategies for reading (or not reading) both columns of prose. I’d like to think that we can consider the form, function, and argument of “Hotel Theory” alongside our reading experiences and our lived conference experiences.

  2. I really like your invocation of time, Patrick. It's been particularly on my mind while discussing How Soon is Now by Carolyn Dinshaw and her concept of asynchrony.

    Koestenbaum writes:
    "Nothing gets accomplished in a hotel room. The hotel room is unthinkable though I am trying to think of it. I ponder the problem of the hotel room because I want to escape a closed system" (10)

    Right now I am back at home/work between a trip to Florida and a trip to Chicago, and I very much feel like I still not "home" as a result. Home because just another temporality meeting me in this moment and no longer asserts itself as a closed and fixed system.

    "Hotel represents a failed relation to space.
    In a hotel, we do not..."stay with things"
    We depart from objects, they fall off us" (17)

    I think about these different senses of time passing me at once and home they touch, meet, and reveal their contingency within me in the now (a now that relates to each time differently). So too with the pages! You see both at once but read them at different speeds and in different ways.