A Tale of Two Castles: An anthropological investigation of castles as constructed places with changing senses through the contextualization and analysis of le Château d’Angers, le Château de Josselin, and their intertwined human histories
By Rachel N. Carpenter
Honor’s BA Thesis, Bryn Mawr College, 2011
Abstract: Humans construct places from natural spaces by assigning meaning to them. These places and their meanings change. They change as the people around them change, and people in turn change the places that they interact with. Time, changing socio-cultural milieu, and even separate, synchronic perspectives also affect places and their meanings and can be affected by them. Castles are places. As such, castles and their meanings or significances also change. The significance of castles in general, as well as of individual castles, change through time, as the humans who have relationships with these buildings change and are ultimately affected by their changing circumstances. To better understand castles as human-constructed places with changing significances or senses of place, this thesis relies more on individual human experiences than on scholarly theory, in keeping with Tuan’s “narrative-descriptive approach”. Individual human experiences connected to the Castles of Angers and Josselin are used in the construction of anthropological histories for these two castle case studies. Such histories place emphasis on the human players present in the chronicles of these places. They combine information from varied sources – history books, tourist brochures, archaeological evidence, websites, timelines, blogs, photos from WWII veterans posted on Flicker, diary entries from soldiers, newspaper articles, stories from family members, as well as information and photos gained while touring the Castles of Angers and Josselin. These histories are presented and then analyzed in an effort to discover 1) how the places in question have evolved through time, 2) how the significance of said places has changed both through time as well as when viewed from opposing yet synchronic perspectives, and 3) how the relationship between humans and spaces creates places and their meanings. In placing the emphasis on the human component of history, this thesis demonstrates that the construction and the interpretation of anthropological histories, in their holistic approach as well as their incorporation of multivocality can yield more insight into humans and our nature than the standalone use of methods and theoretical approaches from the myriad subdisciplines of anthropology, from history, or even from anthropology as a whole. It is a significant anthropological endeavor as it presents a diachronic exploration of the changing relationships between humans and the castles that they have built through the investigation of the Castle of Angers and the Castle of Josselin as human-constructed places with changing senses of place.