Romantic Geography: In Search of the Sublime Landscape

Romantic Geography: In Search of the Sublime Landscape

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 0299296806

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Geography is useful, indeed necessary, to survival. Everyone must know where to find food, water, and a place of rest, and, in the modern world, all must make an effort to make the Earth—our home—habitable. But much present-day geography lacks drama, with its maps and statistics, descriptions and analysis, but no acts of chivalry, no sense of quest. Not long ago, however, geography was romantic. Heroic explorers ventured to forbidding environments—oceans, mountains, forests, caves, deserts, polar ice caps—to test their power of endurance for reasons they couldn't fully articulate. Why climb Everest? "Because it is there."

            Yi-Fu Tuan has established a global reputation for deepening the field of geography by examining its moral, universal, philosophical, and poetic potentials and implications. In his twenty-second book, Romantic Geography, he continues to engage the wide-ranging ideas that have made him one of the most influential geographers of our time. In this elegant meditation, he considers the human tendency—stronger in some cultures than in others—to veer away from the middle ground of common sense to embrace the polarized values of light and darkness, high and low, chaos and form, mind and body. In so doing, venturesome humans can find salvation in geographies that cater not so much to survival needs (or even to good, comfortable living) as to the passionate and romantic aspirations of their nature. Romantic Geography is thus a paean to the human spirit, which can lift us to the heights but also plunge us into the abyss.

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milÂ�iÂ�tary ofÂ�fiÂ�cials from the west. The emÂ�peror had his back the c ity 116 to the north, which was proÂ�fane space, and it was there that the marÂ�ket Â�should be loÂ�cated.2 What might a vilÂ�lager see upon enÂ�terÂ�ing Â�Ch’ang-an? What would he learn and how might his worldÂ�view be alÂ�tered? I ask beÂ�cause if he were alert and Â�open-minded, his world would open up in funÂ�daÂ�menÂ�tally the same way as an inÂ�diÂ�vidÂ�ual from any preÂ�modÂ�ern peÂ�riod of hisÂ�tory and had

surÂ�prisÂ�ingly rural. Â�Ch’ang-an, the Han dyÂ�nasty capÂ�iÂ�tal, is a good exÂ�amÂ�ple. It is subÂ�diÂ�vided into 160 wards or li, which now means “a mile” but once meant “vilÂ�lage” or “hamÂ�let.” The fact that the word li was used sugÂ�gests that Han Â�Ch’ang-an was far from being Â�built-up and that large parts Â�within its walls were open counÂ�try. HunÂ�dreds of years later, Â�Ch’ang-an reÂ�mained the capÂ�iÂ�tal city, this time of the Tang emÂ�pire. Its basic plan beÂ�came even more

in Brit�ain and Eu�rope fol�lowed suit. In Ger�many, as�sign�ing al�lot� ments began in the 1870s and con�tin�ued for an�other cen�tury. The move�ment was pop�u�lar, and it soon be�came a com�mon sight to see mini�ature farms gird�ing Ger�man towns.11 As for North Amer�ica, the down�town areas of its me�trop�ol�ises can �hardly be more ar�ti�fac�tual. From a high point, one sees noth�ing but build�ings, �streets, and park�ing lots. One �scholar, pub�lish�ing in

can thereÂ�fore seem a litÂ�tle too acÂ�aÂ�demic, Â�inward-looking, and parti pris to the genÂ�eral Â�reader, or they are the soÂ�cial conÂ�cerns and poÂ�litÂ�iÂ�cal batÂ�tles of the day that are alÂ�ready Â�widely reÂ�ported in the news media and can thereÂ�fore seem, to the genÂ�eral Â�reader, déjà vu. If geoÂ�graphÂ�iÂ�cal writÂ�ing comÂ�manded more atÂ�tenÂ�tion in the past, it canÂ�not be beÂ�cause geogÂ�raÂ�phers were more Â�gifted then; it can be only that geogÂ�raÂ�phy was then less a

a front and a back. The front is forÂ�mal and semiÂ�pubÂ�lic; the back is inÂ�forÂ�mal and priÂ�vate. In preÂ�modÂ�ern times, the courtÂ�yard at the front was Â�largely reÂ�served for men and that at the back for women and chilÂ�dren; the one caÂ�tered to the Â�social-political, the other to the Â�social-biological; the one exÂ�posed and “bright,” the other hidÂ�den and “dark.” AlÂ�though the house may be parÂ�tiÂ�tioned and its rooms asÂ�signed difÂ�ferÂ�ent valÂ�ues, the house as a whole is

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