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Review Essay /Etude critique

The Editors are pleased to announce the introduction of a new section in the journal,
designed to permit longer reviews and discussions of recently published material
as well as to provide space for critical commentaries on contemporary trends in the
discipline. Review essays o n particular topics will be invited directly by the Editors,
although potential contributors are encouraged to contact the Associate Editor,
first, with suggestions for possible essays. Published essays will be between 2000 and
4000 words, and tables, illustrations, etc. should normally be avoided.

PLACE, LANDSCAPE, AND THE DIALECTICS OF


CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY*

The proponents of the anti-positivistic view operate on the premise that ... the human
mind has everywhere certain properties that are innate, or are due to the existential
similarities of human experience. The relationship between mind, or the totality of the
psychic life, and society is not ... unilaterally causal, but is one of interplay and conflict.
In this oppositional setting, neither mind nor society emerge wholly victorious, for each
is a product of the struggle and neither is completely reducible to the other. Social life
is not a mechanism, nor even an organism, but a dialectic. (Murphy, 1971, p. 8 5 )

Thus a social anthropologist sums up the approach taken to the relationship between
man and society by those in his discipline who oppose the mechanistic view of positivism.
If we substitute the terms space, place, landscape or environment for society in this passage
we would have a fair summary of the approach to human geographical experience to
which an increasing body of literature is moving in our own discipline. Human ideas
mould the landscape, human intentions create and maintain places, but our experience of
space and place itself moulds human ideas. There is a n inevitable tension in geography,
as in every humanity or social science, between knowledge and existence (Dardel, 1952).
A recognition of the need to explore these dialectics if we are to make any meaningful
statements about the human organization of space is implicit in geographys humanist
tradition. That tradition has seen a powerful resurgence in this decade, after a generation
of geographical treatment of the man-environment relationship as a measurable, objective,
and mechanistic entity which may be examined through concepts and methods derived
from the natural sciences.
It is less than a decade since the publication of Harveys ( 1 969) monumental defence
of a positivist geography. Yet the thrust of human geographical writing in the mid and late
1970s seems in direct opposition to the methods proposed by Harvey. We are now in
possession of a maturing humanistic literature in geography, examining such questions
as the nature of the general links between environment, landscape, and the human mind
(Tuan, 1974a, b; Lowenthal and Bowden, 1976); the meaning of place and landscape
experience (Relph, 1976; Appleton, 1975); the ways in which the American mind and
American culture have moulded the visible, and invisible, features of the American land-
+
* T h e Experience of Landscape, by Jay Appleton, John Wiley, New York, 1975, xiii 293 pp.,
cloth $24.50 (ISBN 0-471-03256-3); Geographies of fhe Mind, edited by David Lowenthal and
Martyn J. Bowden, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1976, 263 pp., cloth $10.25 (ISBN
0-19-501970-9); Place and Placelessness, by E. Relph, Pion Ltd., London, 1976, 156 pp., cloth
S4.50 (ISBN 0-85086-055-5); Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, by Yi-Fu Tuan,
University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1977,vil-235 pp., cloth $12.95 (ISBN 0-8166-0808-3);
The Anierican Environment: Perceptions and Policies, edited by I . Wreford Watson and Timothy
ORiordan, John Wiley, New York, 1976, 340 pp., cloth $29.50 (ISBN 0-471-92221-8).
66
CANADIAN XXII,1, 1978
GEOGRAPHER,
REVIEW ESSAY / ~ T U D ECRITIQUE 67
scape (Zelinsky, 1973; Watson and ORiordan, 1976); and the ways that landscapes
change in response to changing human ideas and ideals (Zube and Zube, 1977).
All these works broach the central questions of a humanist geography, focussing around
concepts of place, landscape, mind, and culture. Questions of human experience and
intention are shown to be susceptible to phenomenological, structuralist, and dialectical
methods of scholarship. At base they are profoundly subjective, while concerned with a
material world whose reality cannot finally be ignored. Allens discussion of imagination
and geographical exploration demonstrates the need for correspondence between the
myth, the subjective, and the external. objective world: An inability to realize the
discrepancy between a preconceived image and an emerging reality may render an ex-
plorer unable to modify his behavior and may therefore cause his expedition to fail
(Allen, 1976, p. 4 7 ) . The intellectual examination of mind and matter, self and world,
must similarly avoid a complete surrender to idealism and subjectivism.

ORIGINS

The intellectual origins of this approach in geography are by no means recent. Relph
( 1976, pp. 4-6) restates the recognition that geographical enquiry springs initially from
a naive awareness of place as an integrated and meaningful phenomenon, or, as Sauer
expressed it in 1925, landscape is the field of geography because it is a naively given, im-
portant section of reality, not a sophisticated thesis (p. 316). Relph shows how this
concern with the meaning of place is inherent in geographical writings from Strabo to Vidal
de la Blache ( 19 13) and Lukerman ( 1964). He brings to our attention the work of Dardel
( 1952), an important, but relatively unrecognized. attempt to construct a systematic phe-
nomenological geography paying explicit attention to human feelings and intentions in
place and space. A more specific orientation within this tradition is the focus upon land-
scape aesthetics and the artistic representation of landscape, as a tool for understanding
human response to the visual scene. Discussion of landscape beauty may be found in Von
Hurnboldt (1849, vol. I I ) , Cornish (1928, 1932), and German geographers like Banse
and Passarge (Fischer et al., 1969). Jay Appletons book, The Experience of Landscape,
follows this tradition, showing how the writings of English eighteenth-century philosophers
like Berkeley, Burke, and Gilpin, examining notions of the sublime and the beautiful in
landscape, may be of value to our own study of landscape aesthetics.
The collection of essays in Lowenthal and Bowden is an explicit tribute to J.K. Wright
who made a plea thirty years ago for the study of those most fascinating of terrae
incognitae which lie within the minds and hearts of man (Wright, 1947, p. 15).
Possibly the most immediate origins of the present body of research are to be found in
the articles published by Lowenthal ( 196 1. 1968), Lowenthal and Prince ( 1964, 1965),
and Tuan (1961). These discussions of human attitudes, values, and responses to the
place and landscape experience stood as islands of a submerged tradition during the high
tide of scientific geography in the last decade. They have been placed in the context of a
philosophical orientation which, although it has been of considerable influence in Euro-
pean thought, remained largely ignored in the English-speaking world (Mercer and
Powell, 1972). The reasons for the more favourable reception given to subjective methods
among Anglo-Saxon social scientists in the 1970s are complex, to be sure, but they relate
to a fundamental dissatisfaction with positivist philosophies of social science and the
perceived implications of such study for our social and geographical world. For this reason
alone one might expect a link between phenomenological and related studies of man,
place, and landscape on the one hand and the developing Marxist social geography on
the other. Some reasons why such a link has yet to emerge are considered later in this
paper.
SUBJECTIVITY AND WORLD

In examining the interpenetration of existence and external reality there is an observable


distinction between those writers who see human subjectivity as conditioned by innate
68 LE G ~ O G R A P H ECANADIEN

properties of the mind, to use Murphys phrase, and those who lay more emphasis on the
existential similarities of human experience. Appleton, and to a lesser extent Tuan, both
accept a behaviourist model of human behaviour. Appletons thesis is essentially that
psychological orientations in our response to landscape are primarily a function of atavis-
tic mechanisms relating back to a time when man had to use the landscape in an immediate
sense for survival. The need to see without being seen, to find refuge from potential
hazards, and to gain a prospect over a wide area of terrain was, he argues, essential for
man the hunter (an arguable proposition concerning cultural evolution). The responses
thus developed, being no longer necessary for immediate survival, have been translated
into aesthetic and symbolic reactions to landscape: aesthetic satisfaction, experienced
in the contemplation of landscape, stems from the spontaneous perception of landscape
features which, in their shapes, colours, spatial arrangements and other visible attributes,
act as sign stimuli indicative of environmental conditions favourable to survival, whether
they w e favourable or not. This proposition we call habitat theory (Appleton, 1975,
p. 69; original italics). Habitat theory and its derivative concepts of prospect, refuge,
and hazard are applied by Appleton in the analysis of landscape in painting, poetry, and
prose as well as in the real world. Although Appleton is modest about the range of
applicability of his theory, he clearly stands on the side of psychologistic explanation of
behaviour and thus in direct opposition to phenomenological approaches.
Although less fully behaviourist, Tuan (1974a, b, 1977) also accepts that the limita.
tions of our physiological make-up - the limited range of human sensory faculties. upright
posture, and body symmetry/asymmetry - play an important role in conditioning the
range and type of our symbolization of the world around us. Such symbolization is
characteristically anthropocentric (individually and socially), with particular values
attached to the cardinal orientations of front and back, left and right, up and down,
north, south, east, and west. But Tuan also recognizes, and most significantly, the key
importance of inside and outside. No doubt this oppositional experience too offers poten-
tial for the atavistic, survival-based formulation, but it is equally available to those who
reject such an argument (Relph, 1976; Rapoport, 1970), preferring to view it as a func-
tion of the self-reflective human mind eternally faced with the dialectic of subject (inside)
and object (outside) and having to mediate or resolve it symbolically.
The atavistic argument for explaining aesthetic and symbolic experience has been a
subject of considerable debate in aesthetic philosophy (Dewey, 1929, 1958; Langer,
1953). In so far as we accept it, the study of meaning in place and landscape becomes
available to the methods of natural science and the central proposition of the dialectical
approach is removed. Few of the geographical writers discussed here appear to accept
it as fully as Appleton, and his work stands rather isolated in this respect. So far as the
present writer is aware, it has yet to stimulate any published studies based on the theory
it offers, although it has proved for some an interesting pedagogical tool for landscape
studies by students in geography.
The assumption underlying most of the literature under discussion appears to be that
the subjective reformulation of the external world is characteristically human, a product
of autonomous mind. Shared images and experience of place and landscape result from
life in society: Thanks to life in society ... the images of the mind are not completely
individual fantasies, for people tend to share the representations of reality and thus to
legitimate and reinforce one anothers interpretation of it. This gives rise to collective
fantasies (and, therefore, no longer fantastic), which we anthropologists call culture
(Murphy, 1971, p. 90). The essays in Lowenthal and Bowdens collection are concrete
examples of this process. Myths of Prester Johns Kingdom, El Dorado, and Cibola were
in no sense fantastic for the explorers who spent so much time and effort searching for
them (Allen, 1976). On the other hand, other myths may lie in a realm of semi-belief,
always traceable to real experience in the real world, but recognized by those who held
them to be questionable in terms of realization. Utopias and dystopias (Porter and
Lukerman, 1976), or images of the afterworld as discussed by Zelinsky ( I 976), are never
utterly divorced in the lineaments of their landscapes from the world outside ourselves,
REVIEW ESSAY / ~ T U D ECRITIQUE 69
for they recompose elements of it and are communicable in language. At the other end
of the spectrum, Bowden (1976) shows how, even in the supposedly self-critical and
objective area of geographical scholarship, collective distortions of reality may be
remarkably persuasive and pervasive. Thus the idea that a nineteenth-century myth of
the Great Plains as a desert held back their settlement for a generation between 1820 and
1850 is itself a collective academic fantasy based in part upon the experience of the
Plains by later geographers and historians.
T h e theme of interpenetration of mind and environment is used as a tool for examining
the evolution of regional landscapes in the United States by both Zelinsky (1973) and
Watson and OKiordan (1976). Americas landscapes reveal the attempts by Europeans
and later the American, that new man, to create a utopia out of the wilderness. Differ-
ent regions of the United States still evoke powerful collective myths that may be traced
back to the ideals and intentions of early settlers towards them. The conclusions reached
by Zelinsky and Watson support and amplify landscape and environmental themes in
American literary study (Nash-Smith, 1950; Marx, 1964; Zube, 1970). T h e Zubes
second collection ( 1977) of J.B. Jacksons articles from Landscape re-emphasize Jack-
sons own and his journals contribution in promoting the examination of the American
landscape as a unique achievement of the human mind in imposing place and landscape
on environment. I t is possibly a reflection of the clarity with which Americas landscapes
reveal the conflict of ideal and reality in mans organization of space and creation of
place that so much of the best geosophy has come from Americans examining their
own culture and world. These works prove that it is not necessary to examine only tech-
nologically simple or primitive societies to demonstrate that cosmological notions,
religious beliefs, and ideas of man and nature are fundamental to our understanding the
landscapes of man.
I t is in Relphs Place and Placelessness that the phenomenological position, accepting
mind as an autonomous, wilful phenomenon freely interpreting the world of experience,
is most explicit: a deep, pre-symbolic differentiation of and attachment to place is per-
haps a biological rather than a peculiarly human characteristic, and it is only on the
cultural and symbolic levels that place experience takes on a distinctively human quality
(Relph, 1976, p. 9 ) . Places achieve identity and meaning through human intention
towards them, and the relationship which exists between those intentions and the objective
attributes of place: the physical setting and the activities which take place within it.
Relph argues that we must be inside a place fully to grasp its meaning. There are three
forms of insideness: behaviociral insicleness, which pays attention largely to the visual
and other sensual stimuli offered by physical setting and activities; empathetic insideness,
which demands a willingness to be open to significances of a place, to know and respect
its symbols (Relph, 1976, p. 5 4 ) , but is not as full a commitment as existenriril inside-
ness, which is the most fundamental form of insideness ... in which a place is experienced
without deliberate and self-conscious reflection, yet is full of significance (p. 55). Home
is perhaps that place where most of us experience true existential insideness. Insideness,
Relph states, may be contrasted with various forms of outsideness, and a dialectical
relationship exists between the two experiences.
For Relph the issue is not merely an academic one. Experience of place may be either
authentic o r inauthentic. The terms are taken from phenomenological thought and char-
acterize modes of being-in-the-world. As he points out, although in essence authenticity
and inauthenticity presuppose no moral distinction, it is difficult not to associate inauthen-
ticity with a less fully human relationship to the lived world. Indeed Kelph does exactly
this. H e is concerned to show that the self-conscious and authentic sense of place is
associated with a design process that is goal oriented and may find innovative solutions.
It is founded upon a complete conception of man and his relationship to the Gods and
nature (Relph, 1976, p. 6 7 ) . Thus we are led to a consideration of ourselves and the
landscapes and places we ourselves are creating in the modern world. For Relph, as for
many others, twentieth-century landscape is ultimately unsatisfying as a true expression
of our potential and our humanity.
70 THE CANADIAN GEOGRAPHER

THE INADEQUACIES OF PHENOMENOLOGICAL IDEALISM

Exploration of the dialectic between subject and object in terms of mind and world, which
constitutes the common theme of the work under review here, inevitably involves con-
sideration of time and process, becoming and passing away. It is curious that Relphs book
should very largely ignore this dimension. Tuan (1977) gives time and our existence and
experience in time as well as space a more central position, but even he concludes that
if we see the world as process, constantly changing, we should not be able to develop
any sense of place (p. 179). This seems far too simple a conclusion. Even those who do
not see time as linear nonetheless recognize that things constantly change while yet
remaining the same. Lynch (1972, p. 1) demonstrates the key interaction of time and
place: the quality of the personal image of time is crucial for individual well-being and
also for our success in managing environmental change, and ... the external physical
environment plays a role in building and supporting that image of time. The relationship
is therefore reciprocal. David Lowenthal ( 1975, 1976) has also examined the interaction
of time and place, recognizing their final inseparability.
The reason for Relphs and Tuans underestimation of time and change both springs
from, and accounts for, the inability of the method they choose to work with ultimately
to explain the phenomena of place and landscape as they relate to human consciousness.
Their phenomenological method provides considerable insight into the meanings that
places and landscapes have for us, particularly as individuals. But in turning to collective
experience their assumptions are idealist. Abstracting minds, souls, spirits, ideas,
intentions in such a way as to represent them as independent entities is the traditional
philosophical alternative to the deterministic assumptions of positivism (Cornforth,
1968, p. 4 9 ) . Such abstraction is implicit in phenomenological writing. The dialectic
between mind and world is examined but finally is predicated on the abstraction of mind.
Such abstraction is false: it neither accords with our experience in the world, nor allows
us the possibility of understanding the reason for things. It is this idealism which is largely
responsible for the failure so far in geography to unite the valuable insights of place and
landscape studies with the equally anti-positivist, but materialist, Marxian analysis in our
discipline. The latter itself frequently seems to lose sight of the reality of the place
experience in treating spatial organization as merely a direct reflection of forces and
relations of production. Application of the dialectical materialist method to our under-
standing of place and its symbolic importance could allow us to penetrate deeper in our
examination of place, placelessness, and the inauthenticity of modern landscapes which
Relph so eloquently reveals.
Dialectical reasoning requires that mind and matter be viewed in interaction with
each other. Neither may be given priority, and the product of their opposition gives the
forms of social life and culture (Murphy, 1971, pp. 184-5). Yet, as Allens paper exem-
plifies, the truth of what mind tells us may only be known through practice in the material
world. Since it is society which creates places and landscapes, and it is through individual
consciousness, itself in interaction with society, that we experience these places and land-
scapes, it is social experience and change in relationship to these phenomena with which
we are mainly concerned. For Marxists the social being determines the consciousness of
men and the social being is predicated upon human association for the purposes of pro-
ducing and reproducing the means of existence. But, once existing, social life is part of
the real world and therefore subject to examination through the dialectical method.
Consciousness of place, attachment of meaning to places and landscapes, and the
creation too of places and landscapes are each an expression of social consciousness and
individual consciousness itself operating in relation to the social. But both are finally
inseparable from the material world - the physical setting and activities of a place, to
use Relphs categories. The particular form which the meaning of place and landscape
takes has to be examined in terms of the historically and geographically specific, as an
element of cultural superstructure. Cultural expression must, as Williams ( 1973) points
out, be homologous with the prevailing mode of production and reproduction of real
social life but is not necessarily to be regarded as a direct reflection of it. This is one of
REVIEW ESSAY / ETUDE CRITIQUE 71
the crude generalizations which some Marxists have made and for which Marxism gen-
erally has been accused of economic determinism. Lags in the relationship between base
and superstructure are important; indeed they have been seen as one of the principal
sources of change (Murphy, 1971, pp. 222-3).
There is n o determinism proposed here as an alternative to phenomenological idealism,
but a recognition of interpenetration and final resolution in practice in the material world.
T h e work of those geographers who have examined the geographies of the mind has
rcvealed much of the meaning in the phenomena of place and landscape. If we are to
understand and apply these findings we must remove them from the realms of idealism.
and place the dialectical method which they implicitly adopt within a materialist frame-
work. In so doing we shall provide Marxist geography with a11 understanding of place
as the central geographical concern.
We arc in possession of at least one systematic attempt to apply the dialectical materi-
alist method to a study of the cultural landscape which also makes explicit reference to
the way men see their world. Serenis ( 1961 ) study of the evolution of the Italian agrarian
landscape is by its nature a very general overview (Sereni examines the period between
Etruscan settlement and the twentieth century), but while he explains change in terms
of the contradictions inherent in modes of production and their corresponding social
relations, he makes use of contemporary painting as the sole illustration of the landscape
at each period. I n this way, and through his discussion of changing taste for be1 paesaggio,
Sereni reveals the relationship betwecn the geography of the mind - specifically the mind
of the class dominant - and the real social and environmental relations. T h e work is highly
suggestive for more detailed studies aimed at developing a more radical humanist
geography.

CONCLUSION

The precise relationship between mind, society, and environment in creating and sustain-
ing places cannot be stated as a general theory. It must be worked out in concrete studies
of real places and landscapes (Gregory, 1976, p. 2 9 8 ) . T h e works discussed here contain
a number of highly specific studies, particularly of the North American landscape, and
a wealth of humanistic geographical concepts. If we can rid ourselves of the assumption
that the only alternative to deterministic, positivist study is idealism, and recognize the
benefits of the dialectical method, we may look to a fruitful cooperation between humanist
cultural geography and Marxist social geography in a joint exploration of the world of
man and the geographies of the mind.

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[D. COSGROVE,
O x f o r d Polytechnic]