Monday, August 30, 2010

Quotes from Topophilia

I promised some quotes from Yi-Fu Tuan's Topophilia instead of assigning the reading. Here are some and you can respond to them if you'd like for posting:

"The word 'topophilia' is a neologism, useful in that it can be defined broadly to include all of the human being's affective ties with the material environment. These differ greatly in intensity, subtlety, and mode of expression. The response to environment may be primarily aesthetic: it may vary from the fleeting pleasure one gets from a view to the equally fleeting but far more intense sense of beauty that is suddenly revealed. The response may be tactile, a delight in the feel of air, water, earth. More permanent and less easy to express are the feelings that one has toward a place because it is home, the locus of memories, and the means of gaining a livelihood" (93).

"Topophilia is not the strongest of human emotions. When it is compelling we can be sure that the place or environment has been the carrier of emotionally charged events or perceived as a symbol" (93).

"Awareness of the past is an important element in the love of place. Patriotic rhetoric has always stressed the roots of a people" (99).

"Since the birth of the modern state in Europe, patriotism as an emotion is rarely tied to any specific locality: it is evoked by abstract categories of pride and power, on the one hand, and by certain symbols, such as the flag, on the other. The modern state is too large, its boundaries too arbitrary, its area too heterogeneous to command the kind of affection that arises out of experience and intimate knowledge. Modern man has conquered distance but not time. In a life span, a man now--as in the past--can establish profound roots only in a small corner of the world" (100).

Thoreau, A Week, Day #1

Here are a couple of questions you might explore. Please do not try to respond to all of them and feel free to add in with your own reactions or questions.

At the beginning of the book, Thoreau points out the distinctiveness of rivers, their role in history and ultimately calling the river's current "the emblem of all progress" (13). How does the experience of river travel, its constant movement and its relation to the bank/shore affect the structure the book (whether in the way he describes what he sees or all the digressions into history, philosophy, religion, etc.)?

There's a lot of talk about Puritan history, Native Americans and myth here--all about the past. This book was also written 10 years after the trip it describes was taken. What do you think Thoreau is trying to say about the past and our relationship to it?

You might also comment on your own personal reaction to one of his digressions, whatever the topic (and while it is understandable to be frustrated, I would appreciate it if you were to comment on something other than your frustration). What do you make of it? How does it fit or not fit with your own views on religion, or wilderness, or fishing (or anything else)? How do you see it connecting to the project of the book?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Whittier, "Last Walk in Autumn" & Geography

--Phil Hubbard's entry on "space/place" explains cultural geography's distinction with those terms. Using those distinctions, try to explain what is "place" and what is "space" in Whittier's poem?

--Don Mitchell's entry on "landscape" explains some of the ways cultural geographers use the term landscape as a constructed or made space, one that reveals what a culture values. What specific form does the landscape take in Whittier's poem? What does it reflect about his or his culture's sense of beauty or value?

Friday, August 20, 2010


Welcome to students of my English 4310: Topics in 19th century American Literature: American Geographies course! This blog site will be the place where several different sorts of assignments take place during the course--online reading discussions, creative meditations on places, and reports on research at the Western Historical Manuscript archive.