Dissertation Title:

Encountering San Diego: A City Planner’s Search for a City’s Soul


Robert Scott

Date, Time & Place:

August 17, 2021 at 11:00 am


The contemporary Southern California cityscape is characterized by urban sprawl, an ever-expanding and homogenized pattern of development where one subdivision looks just like the next and where suburban strip malls are surrounded by seas of asphalt parking lots. Complicating matters, (over)regulated standards for form, function, and uniformity lack respect for the landscape’s genius loci, or sense of place. Informed by depth and archetypal psychologists Craig Chalquist, James Hillman, Robert Sardello, Gail Thomas, and others who have argued that archetypal psychology can help re-imagine soul’s relationship to city, this dissertation applies the mythopoetic perspective of depth and archetypal psychology toward the author’s hometown of San Diego in search of aspects of the city’s soul.

Through the primary lenses of depth, archetypal, and eco-psychologies, the dissertation employs a hermeneutic approach to examining the city through its geography, history, and mythologies by way of archetype, metaphor, and the mythic imagination. The result implies a reinterpretation (or revisioning) of how a planner might assess the development of a city, thereby creating a psychological vision for how one might engage more fully and more symbolically with the cityscape. Drawing on his background as a lifetime resident and thirty-year professional career as an urban planner in San Diego County, the author sought evidence of San Diego’s genius loci and the evolution of its city soul through her history and mythology, her archetypal geography, her city images, and the archetypal energies that inhabit the place. He discovered an undeniable pattern of doubling in the city’s natural, cultural, and mythic landscapes, allowing entry into deeper, hidden dialectical tensions where polytheistic gods and archetypal energies abound within the city’s soul space.

San Diego city-soul stories presented herein speak on behalf of the city in a manner that activates the anima mundi, or world’s soul, that adds to her rich history and reinforces her unique placement within the larger identity of California. The city’s on-going struggle with how to build respectfully and in harmony within her natural surroundings suggests that San Diego may be content as a small, big city ensconced within an Edenic landscape — one that remains mostly small of scale and more suburban in nature, with a large urban core downtown and a scattering of smaller, clustered neighborhoods peppering her outer edges.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, I, 2013
  • Chair: Dr. Dennis Patrick Slattery
  • Reader: Dr. Lori Pye
  • External Reader: Dr. Andrew Keitt
  • Keywords: Archetypal Psychology, City Planning, Cultural Mythology, Depth Psychology, Ecopsychology, Historical Geography, San Diego, Urban Studies