Oh, it’s tense!

It was already in my first post in this blog that I pointed out that I started broadening my horizons on all things landscape by picking up the concisely titled ‘Landscape’ by John Wylie. After that I have ventured into various articles that I happen to have found particularly insightful, as well as covered various related philosophical issues related to landscape. Going back a bit, to the first post, I’ll be taking a look at certain fault lines in landscape research. I’ll only be looking at the introduction, so reader beware.

Wylie (1) opens up his introduction to ‘Landscape’ by examining a painting by Paul Cezanne, as depicted on the cover of the book. The painting itself, a view of fields and a distant mountain, Mont Saint-Victoire, located in Provence, France, is not of high importance for this essay. What is important is that Wylie (1) sums up the landscape painted by Cezanne as haunted by tension:

“It is a tension between proximity and distance, body and mind, sensuous immersion and detached observation. Is landscape the world we are living in, or a scene we are looking at, from afar?”

He (1) takes up landscape as tension in order to point out certain binaries that underline landscape studies: close/distant, body/mind and immersion/observation. The first tension listed by Wylie (2-3) has to do with proximity/distance, whether, following phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, one is one with the landscape, that is to say inseparably intertwined with/in it, or, following, for example Raymond Williams, landscape is distant and observed, thus separate. The second line of thought I already covered in the essay focusing on Denis Cosgrove’s 1985 article titled ‘Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea’, as well as in the essay on the origins of the word itself, namely in reference to Kenneth Olwig’s work. Wylie (3) aptly summarizes the view emphasizing distance:

“Landscape thus belongs to science, rationality and modernity; it is the accomplice and expression of an epistemological model whose central supposition posits a pre-given external reality which a detached subject observes and represents.”

I think it is worth emphasizing the detachment of the observer here. There is a sense of control over landscape, a posture or in fact an imposture, a mastery or illusory mastery of observation, as characterized by Maurice Ronai in his titled ‘Paysages. II’. As Wylie (3) makes note of, this understanding of landscape has to do with visual observation and representation of the world:

“[T]he world is conceptualised as an external, separate reality to be rationally perceived and accurately represented.”

In stark contrast, understanding landscape through, say Merleau-Ponty, landscape is not external, thus not merely observed. So, as I pointed out, one is one with the world. You are never outside landscape. It is never projected outside oneself. This first tension, proximity/distance, leads Wylie (4) to consider a second tension, that of observation/inhabitation. This tension can be summarized by asking whether one looks at it, as a scene, or lives in it. Related to the first tension, while Wylie (4) acknowledges that these are not necessarily mutually exclusive, he (5) adds that it is often the case. It is perhaps, or to be honest rather likely, that I agree with this argument because I find it naive to think that observation is somehow neutral. Wylie (5) actually makes a great point on this, noting that early landscape research, namely in reference to Carl Sauer, was rooted on a claim in unmediated observation. Sauer’s (31) method is worth quoting here to clarify this:

“It is a purely evidential system, without prepossession regarding the meaning of its evidence, and presupposes a minimum of assumption; namely, only the reality of structural organization. Being objective and value-free, or nearly so, it is competent to arrive at increasingly significant results.”

That’s exactly what it says in Sauer’s ‘The Morphology of Landscape’. How does that work then? Well, Sauer (28) elaborates that:

“All that can be expected is the reduction of the personal element by agreeing on a ‘predetermined mode of inquiry’, which shall be logical.”

Oh, logical you say, that’s awfully convenient, to merely act upon oneself, repressing “a priori theories concerning it” as Sauer (30) expresses it. Sauer (30) does refer to his method as inductive, so fair enough it is evidential, but somehow I’m not exactly convinced by the claim to detachment, that one is able to make one’s prior knowledge take a back seat, as if it is something as simple as an on/off switch. Even if it is one hundred percent out there for one to empirically study, I’d like to know the whatever secret recipe it is to make such awesomesauce that enables perfect, no, sorry, near so, objectivity in observation.

Moving on, Wylie (5) progresses to examine the re-emergence of landscape studies in the 1970s. My early texts reflect on this and conveniently one of the books handed to me early on was the 1979 essay compilation titled ‘The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays’ edited by Donald Meinig. The title itself is rather self-explanatory, landscapes are interpreted, not observed. In other words, landscape is not a given, or as Wylie (5) aptly summarizes it: “[landscape is] not simply a set of observable material cultural facts.” That said, just as Wylie (5-6) points out, there is still an emphasis on the observation, on the expense of inhabitation. It doesn’t mean that inhabitation is altogether ignored. In fact it is taken into account, but as rather explaining how observation is influenced by one’s background, as indicated by Meinig in his essay titled ‘The Beholding Eye: Ten Versions of the Same Scene’. Simply put, the landscape observer is no longer detached in the sense that unmediated objective observation is possible. That said, there is still a detachment, a certain distance between the observer and the landscape. The opposite to this can be found in landscape studies following phenomenology, or rather phenomenologies of, for example, Martin Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. While hardly representative of all landscape research influenced by phenomenology, those interested in it might start from Tim Ingold’s article titled ‘The Temporality of the Landscape’.

The third tension listed by Wylie (6) is between eye and land. Working on dictionary definitions, he (6) elaborates that landscape has to do with land. It is not land itself, yet bound to it, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times already in some of the previous essays. Here it is actually helpful to take a look at what the word ‘land’ stands in for. Reiterating this from a previous essay, ‘land’ (OED, s.v. “land”, n.1) has a large number of dictionary definitions, as listed in, for example, in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it primarily refers to a portion or tract of earth’s surface, excluding the area covered by water. It (OED, s.v. “land”, n.1) can also be understood as ground or soil, territorial possession or property. Incidentally, in his article, in reference to his book titled ‘The Appropriation of Nature: Essays on Human Ecology and Social Relationships’, Ingold (153-154), offers a useful definition what land is by arguing what it is not:

“Land is not something you can see, any more than you can see the weight of physical objects. All objects of the most diverse kinds have weight, and it is possible to express how much anything weighs relative to any other thing. Likewise, land is a kind of lowest common denominator of the phenomenal world, inherent in every portion of the earth’s surface yet directly visible in none, and in terms of which any portion may be rendered quantitatively equivalent to any other[.] You can ask of land, as of weight, how much there is, but not what it is like.”

In other other words, land is understood as quantifiable, not qualifiable. Simply put, as indicated in a dictionary, ‘land’ is generally understood in that sense. It (OED, s.v. “land”, n.1) can be understood as synonymous to ground or soil, in which case it can be qualified, judged by what it is like. Ingold is likely ignoring the other definitions as they are not related to landscapes. He (154) further clarifies the distinction, this time how it is not synonymous to land:

“But where land is thus quantitative and homogeneous, the landscape is qualitative and heterogeneous. Supposing that you are standing outdoors, it is what you see all around: a contoured and textured surface replete with diverse objects[.] … Thus at any particular moment, you can ask of a landscape what it is like, but not how much of it there is. For the landscape is a plenum, there are no holes in it that remain to be filled in, so that every infill is in reality a reworking.”

Rephrasing this, as argued before a number times in my essays, landscape cannot be neatly bounded because it is not a bounded entity, but rather an unfixed continuum as far as land is concerned. Sure, water gets excluded, marking a boundary between what is landscape and what is not, but that’s beside the point here. If you make an observation from a fixed vantage point, landscape is what you see. You can delineate it on the basis of how far the eye can see from that point, but once you move from that point to another point on land, the landscape changes inasmuch as what is contained within what you can see from that point is different from the observation in the first position. Simply moving your eyes and/or rotating your head also exemplifies this as what you see changes. It seems a bit much to claim that simply by moving your eyes, your head and/or your body results in seeing another landscape, distinct from one you observed initially simply because the quantity of land observable changes as a result. That would entail at least seemingly infinite number of landscapes. I think it is also worth reiterating the observation made by Bernard Kalaora and Valentin Pelosse (92) in their article ‘La forêt loisir, un équipement de pouvoir: L’exemple de la forêt de Fontainebleau’ that landscape requires an opening: you can see in a dense forest, you can see the land there and quantify it, but the density of the forest, the trees in the forest prevent you from observing it as a landscape. There’s always something in the way. In summary then, the point is that the land you see at any position can be quantified as this and that much of land, but not the landscape. The final sentence in the quote adds that there is nothing missing in what is observed, nothing to be added in order to complete it, nothing to be measured in order to verify that something is not missing, and that anything that is added is not towards completion, only an alteration. I think I should point out that I’m being rather liberal in my use of Ingold’s account here, considering that he (154) rejects landscape as a way of seeing, the division between the observer and the observed, whereas my own view straddles the fence rather than collapsing it to one entity. That said, regardless of the differences, I think Ingold does a good job at explaining the omnipresence of landscape.

Returning to the topic, while landscape is not considered synonymous with land, it is tied to it. However, there is nothing unreal in landscape, or, as Wylie (6) puts it:

“Landscapes are real; in other words, they are really out there: solid, physical and palpable entities, not just figments of the imagination.”

Landscape is not inherent or synonymous to reality, yet it is not imaginary. The way I see it is that it hinges on reality, the sensible material entities. Anyway, Wylie (6) continues:

“Landscapes are topographies we see and the terrains we travel through: the fields and the cities and the mountains. They may be surveyed, mapped and described in a factual and objective manner.”

He (6-7) then adds that what he is elaborating here is a strictly material understanding of the term. In other words, in this sense it is worth distinguishing between landscape and a landscape, the former being the concept, the latter a unit of study, as it is the case with the early landscape research, for example in the research of Sauer and Johannes Gabriel Granö. As I’ve already examined Sauer’s approach in my previous essays, perhaps it’s better to elaborate this survey and mapping oriented approach through Granö’s ‘Pure Geography’.

It takes a while for Granö to get to the point, but I think it’s worth elaborating his thought process. Going from the more general to the more specific, he (9) states:

“The notions that we possess of places and regions gained by personal observation are derived from the overall picture provided by all our senses, the validity which depends on both the extent of the area we have perceived through our senses at any one time and the duration and degree of detail of this observation. The total impression obtained has a definite extent in both space and time, in that our faculty of sight determines its size and the duration of our lives its temporal boundaries.”

He (9) then reformulates this rather broad yet thorough and refers to it as “an environment perceived by human being through their senses”, in short “a perceived environment.” For him (9-10) it forms “the object of geographical research” and, following Erich Becher’s (13) ‘Naturphilosophie’, it belongs to natural science despite the inclusion of humans and their activities due to the method that is observation. I admit I’m not familiar with Becher’s work, but interestingly enough what I can gather from the pages referenced by Granö is that Becher is questioning the nature/culture or natural/human divide, at least to some extent. Anyway, following Becher’s line of reasoning, Granö includes the cultural/human side in his definition of natural science, considering that they belong to the material world.

Granö (18) divides the perceived environment “into three parts on the basis of the nature of the phenomena: field of vision, medium and substrate.”He (16-17) defines them one by one, first field of vision (16):

“The first part, which is decisive for the purposes of geographical orientation and which in a sense governs and unites the entity under consideration, is the visible complex that makes up the environment, the field of vision.”

Then medium (16):

“The second includes the aspects of heat, humidity (in certain cases wetness), pressure (wind, water, etc.), sounds, and smells that we connect with the matter surrounding us, mostly air and to some extent water, combining them into a complex which we call a medium.”

And finally the substrate (16-17):

“The third and last part is the base or substrate, the significance of which as a factor in the geographical whole is reflected especially in features of wetness, resistance, bearing capacity, and inclination”

It is interesting to note that Granö is including not only vision, but the other senses as well. More interestingly, however, he (18) splits field of vision into two: proximate field of vision and distant field of vision. He (18) bases this distinction on the way distance affects perception; objects located close to the observer appear as correct, real size or life size, whereas objects located in the distance are obscured and exist in apparent sizes. He (18) indicates that the proximate field of vision extends to only some tens of meters. Related to the tripartite distinction of the perceived environment, he (18) states that the medium and the substrate fall within the proximate field of vision, only to add auditory perceptions to this categorization as well. He (18) then defines the environment belonging to the proximate field of vision as the proximate environment, the proximity. As its counterpart he (18-19) defines the environment falling to the distant field of vision the distant environment, the landscape. Having distinguished proximity and landscape based on human senses and their applicability by distance, he (26) is not content with what he has established:

“[W]e cannot be satisfied with these anthropocentric entities or with the typology of the perceptual environment, which geography is probably capable of establishing. We need entities that have fixed boundaries, are definable with regard to their phenomena and objects, and are earthbound, that is ‘natural regions’ or ‘geographical individuals'[.]”

He (27) then indicates that landscape and natural landscape are already in use in this sense. Instead of opting to refer to landscape, as he already did (18-19), he (26) suggests referring to a landscape as a geographical locality or simply locality and to the proximity as vicinity. Importantly, he (28) adds that the deciding factor in judging a fixed entity is not “[t]he size of the area … but the degree of uniformity.”

In order to avoid unnecessary rambling, I think I have elaborated Granö’s approach enough. It should be quite evident from Granö’s account that it fits Wylie’s (6) criteria. The way I understand Granö’s approach is that for him landscape is an intermediary for establishing the fixed bounded entities, the localities. As a final bit here, Granö (22-23) elaborates his method:

“It should also be kept in mind when planning fieldwork that one would obtain a more complete picture of the site if one had the opportunity to make observations not only in as many parts of it as possible, but also as frequently as possible, at all seasons and in the course of a number of years.”

So, if it wasn’t already evident enough, Granö is interested in establishing localities through systematic and recurring observation of landscapes. From the last in particular, I understand this approach as based on synthesis. It’s also worth noting that, as Niinä Käyhkö, Olavi Granö and Maunu Häyrynen (247-248) indicate in their article titled ‘Finnish landscape studies – a mixture of traditions and recent trends in the analysis of nature-human interactions’, Granö’s research laid the foundations for dividing Finland into regions based on the landscape approach and it has also influenced subsequent published maps where Finland is divided into landscape regions and provinces. This may seem rather trivial, as well as pedantic, to get stuck on the work of one author, but the influence of his research has its problems. In ‘Administration, Landscape and Authorized Heritage Discourse – Contextualising the Nationally Valuable Landscape Areas of Finland’, Hannu Linkola (945) argues that conceptualizing and objectifying landscape functions to materialize authorized heritage discourse (AHD). Say what now? Linkola (945) clarifies:

“Granö’s conceptual construction not only defined landscape as an object, but also then used the object to define the community that had the right to make legitimate interpretations of landscapes. This exclusive attitude, together with a methodology for regionalising and materialising the landscapes for the means of territorial governance and classifications, formed a firm ground for the environmental administration few decades later.”

In other words, Granö ended up doing what Maurice Ronai (153) makes note of in his first article on landscapes, having “a passion for landscape as an object of knowledge, emotion and desire” which makes the researcher both complicit and complacent in (re)producing representations. It should noted that I believe Granö’s intentions were good and in line with the zeitgeist, but the method itself is flawed in assuming that it is possible to objectively depict reality. In this sense there is clear similarity between Granö and Sauer. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Linkola (947-948) argues that landscapes became factual physical entities and deemed as common heritage, which led to conserving and “governing them through legislation” with committees tasked to judge the formal criteria for all that. He (948) notes that the working group that was responsible for an official report that nominated a total of 156 Nationally Valuable Landscape Areas (NVLAs) published in as recently as 1993 borrowed Granö’s methodology. In other words, what Granö did was more or less taken up again, rebranded and legitimized for further use, as noted by Linkola (950). As Ronai (153) puts it, this only leads to the landscapes becoming impervious to change. Everything just is just because it is, in this case that being whatever someone in his passion for knowledge established in the early 1900s, only to be taken as granted by the following generations. This leads Linkola (951) to characterize the implementation of NVLAs as a matter of governmentality. If it isn’t already evident from all this, I think it’s quite ironic how categorization of land based on the visual observation by one person decades ago is taken up by administrators and legislators on an as is basis, with apparently no one objecting to the absurdity of it. This is the prime reason why I try to avoid referring to landscape as a physical entity or entities, as a landscape, the landscape or landscapes. It’s not always possible, but I try. Going back to Ingold for a bit, it’s worth reminding how landscape is not quantifiable as it has no clear bounds, yet it is evident that one is forced to acknowledge that this does not apply in the current regime of truth.

Getting back on track after that lengthy tangent, Wylie (7) summarizes what is essentially the opposite of understanding landscape as a tangible physical entity:

“Landscape is both the phenomenon itself and our perception of it. In other words, while being linked in one way to what are usually called objective facts, to the real world ‘out there’,landscape is also found in the eye of the beholder. That is, landscape takes shape within the realms of human perception and imagination.”

He (7) then rephrases it as “a way of seeing things”, a gaze, not only about what is seen, but also how it is seen. The introduction section is not particularly reference heavy, but I take it that he is implicitly referring to John Berger and Michel Foucault, the former known for his book and television series both titled ‘Ways of Seeing’ and the latter for addressing gaze, such as the medical gaze in his ‘The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception’. So, in other words (7):

“[H]ow we look at things is not only to do with the biological functioning of our eyes. How we look at things is a cultural matter; we see the world from particular cultural perspectives, the ones into which we have been socialised and educated.”

Indeed, there is a clear difference between seeing and ways of seeing. George Perkins Marsh makes note of this in ‘Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action’. He (10) writes on the observation of nature:

“To the natural philosopher, the descriptive poet, the painter, and the sculptor, as well as to the common observer, the power most important to cultivate, and, at the same time, hardest to acquire, is that of seeing what is before him.”

He (10) continues with less pomp:

“Sight is a faculty; seeing, an art. The eye is a physical, but not a self-acting apparatus, and in general it sees only what it seeks.”

Only to return to it (10):

“Like a mirror, it reflects objects presented to it; but it may be as insensible as a mirror, and it does not necessarily perceive what it reflects.”

Ah, yes, seeing and perceiving are not the same thing and even if the eyes mirror the reality, or rather present it upside down, only to be flipped in the brain, not even mirrors reflect it perfectly as they tend to have that ever so slight greenish tint to them. Calling it a false mirror, in reference to René Magritte’s ‘Le faux miroir’ (The False Mirror), would be more fitting here, but that’d be an anachronism. I’ll get to Magritte soon enough anyway. Marsh (11-13) goes on to exemplify this, but instead of elaborating his examples in, for example, marksmanship, it’s worth noting that he is arguably ever so optimistic about the prospects of training one’s eyes. I guess that has to do with the zeitgeist, not seeing a flip side to it as he (12-13) states with regards to scenery:

“It may be profitably pursed by all; and every traveller, ever lover of rural scenery, every agriculturalist, who will wisely use the gift of sight, may add valuable contributions to the common stock of knowledge on a subject[.]”

While it’s striking how he makes the distinction between seeing and perceiving, essentially pointing out that it’s not what we see, but how we see, as noted by Wylie (7), he is hardly critical of this, not seeing how one’s love of rural scenery might be an acquired taste. I won’t go into more detail here as that was examined in greater detail in a previous essay which focuses on an article titled ‘Landscape Taste as a Symbol of Group Identity: A Westchester County Village’ by James Duncan. Making note of this, Wylie (7) summarizes:

“What this means – and this has become almost axiomatic for cultural geographers – is that studying landscape involves thinking about how our gaze, our way of looking at the world, is always already laden with particular cultural values, attitudes, ideologies and expectations.”

While I’m not fond of using words such as culture and ideology (they tend to be taken for granted, but rarely explained), this summary is useful as it is easy to understand even if you are not familiar landscape research. He (7) continues and explains that this type of understanding of landscape tends to be associated with pictures or paintings, a pictorial understanding of it, if you will. He (7) makes note of its pervasiveness:

“[It] is still reproduced unmarked in many places, for example in the Microsoft Word™ program I am using to write these words, where the page can be oriented either ‘portrait’ or ‘landscape’.”

I concur. I write on a different word processing program, but the options for the page orientation are the same. Makes you wonder actually. The options remind me of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (172) who, in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, make note of the face-landscape complex, visageite-paysageite, influential in arts. Anyway, Wylie (7) offers a mundane, yet fascinating example on its presence. Moving on, he (7-8) states that Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels are, in particular, known for furthering this line of thinking, which is rather evident from their publications. Getting to the point, summarizing it, he (8) states:

“The point here is that, clearly, landscapes are human, cultural and creative domains as well as, or even rather than, natural or physical phenomena. Landscapes are cultural representations, they are works of landscape art, paintings, photographs, descriptions in novels and travel guides.”

In other words, the point here is that landscapes are representations. They are never what they represent, no matter how accurate they are or how realistic they seem. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that a painting fails at this, yet they can look strikingly realistic and accurate. While that probably wasn’t self-evident centuries ago, it is laughable to think that a painting is not a crude representation, regardless of the artistic merit involved. In the present, photography is a better, more deceptive, medium of representation. If paintings that took quite a while to paint used to come across as realistic way back then, photos manage that with ease. They are not only realistic, they are photorealistic. As a photographer I’m well aware of this, yet I know that cameras never manage to capture what’s in front of them in one to one correspondence to the world. You may now ask, how so? Well, even if we ignore the framing issue, the camera sensor or film produces a representation that is not identical to what is depicted. Film and sensors may, for example, have grain or noise, which the reality lacks. Diffraction yet another issue. The optics used, the lenses also have certain qualities that affect the outcome. For example, the choice of lens affects optical distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting. In summary, in Foucauldian/Deleuzian parlance, there can be overlap to certain extent, but “there is no correspondence or isomorphism, no direct causality or symbolization” between the discursive and non-discursive formations, as state by Deleuze (31) in ‘Foucault’. That’s the point in Magritte’s painting ‘La Trahison des Images’ (The Treachery of Images). His ‘Le faux miroir’ (The False Mirror) is probably even more fitting in the context of landscapes.

Getting back on track here, Wylie (8) summarizes that there is a division, eye vs. land, subjective perception vs. objective entity. He (8-9) does not go into detail in the introduction (you should to read the book), but the gist is that there is a tension between the two. On one hand, there is no going back to the entity based approaches, as exemplified by Sauer and Granö. They lack “critical purchase”, as Wylie (8) puts it. I agree. On the other hand, the emphasis on the eye, the representation, can sever the ties to materiality to an extent that you wonder if landscape is a mere discursive formation, having no overlap, no connection to the non-discursive formation, as if the clouds in the ‘Le faux miroir’ had nothing to do with what the word cloud stands in for, figments of imagination if you will, or at least that’s how I interpret this tension presented by Wylie.

The fourth and final tension presented by Wylie (9) is between culture and nature. I’ve covered this in a previous essay, so I won’t go into much detail here. In summary, I get it that people tend to use both words and orient themselves accordingly, yet I find them both lacking. Neither really exist, at least not as some superorganic entities that act above and beyond the heterogeneous assemblages, the human and the non-human entities (even that reiterates the duality, I know, but to get the point across). For example, I don’t find it problematic to speak of culture in the sense that it stands in for, say certain mutually agreed and shared customs or held values, or nature in the sense that it’s what’s not human. It’s a bit beside the point, but I find the human/natural split problematic as it assumes some inherent separation. I think it’s rather a reduction. To get to the point, what I find problematic is when culture or nature is used as an explanation for something. For example, when there is some calamity it is attributed to the wrath of nature, as if nature is distinct wrathful entity, like an angry deity that punishes with intention and determination. It works the other way around as well, nature weeping if, for example, trees are felled, as if it is like some sort of a hive mind that takes offense when someone swats a fly. Similarly, at times people explain their behavior or seek to restrict the behavior of others as mandated by culture, acting outside people, commanding and compelling them with no redress. Used in this sense, I find nature and culture all too convenient, at our disposal when it suits us. They lead to forms of determinism, as evident in the early landscape research, which is also pointed out by Wylie (10). That’s another interesting topic, but everything in due time. Anyway, as I pointed out, I acknowledge that while neither nature or culture exists as such, nature and culture are very real to people. Anyway, it’s perhaps best to address this further another time.

To sum things up, Wylie’s ‘Landscape’ is well worth reading. I didn’t venture into the text beyond the introduction, but it still manages to present different aspects and traditions, all related to the study of landscapes without emphasizing one over another. It’s not that everything goes, but I think it’s commendable that he gives everyone a fair shake, even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with others. If my memory serves me, it’s actually quite far into the book that he presents his views on landscape. I try to do the same when I assess texts. While I believe I can be quite critical, I try to see the positive in things. I really don’t see the point in mocking someone’s work or tearing it to pieces. There’s something quite ostentatious about referring to what others do as, for example, “little short of a scientific crime” as stated by Richard Hartshorne (327) in ‘The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past’. Well, at least Hartshorne isn’t calling someone else’s work “a brochure” and what may result from it “likely to be a catalogue half rubbish, like a child’s collection from a dump heap, and wholly unscientific” like Charles Redaway Dryer (348-349) does in his 1926 review of Sauer’s ‘The Morphology of Landscape’. Ah, the vitriol of it, showing who’s the boss. There’s nothing quite like a display of one-upmanship, flexing your muscles, setting yourself on a non-existing pedestal, for I am a golden god, worship me. I think Sauer and Granö are worth reading even though I don’t agree with them on most things. To be honest, for example, Sauer builds on Goethean phenomenology, so you should bear that in mind. It sort of even makes sense in that light, but I think one should direct the criticism towards that, the foundations, not whatever comes after. That’s trivial. I think it’s better to try to understand the foundations and then work against them in their own terms. For example, criticizing methodology is useless if you don’t understand what it builds on. It may well be that it makes sense, but you just don’t see it or you are unwilling to see it in its own light. I think Deleuze and Guattari (28-29) do us a favor when in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ they state that “debaters and communicators are inspired by ressentiment“, speaking past one another, never on the same plane. I cannot come up with a fitting expression in English out of memory, but in translation, in the context of Finnish dining that equates to pulling out a stack of banknotes at a restaurant, waving it in the air in a clear display of wealth and shouting at people sitting at another table. You have no idea what the people at the other table are on about, at best you overheard something, but that’s not the point, you don’t actually care or want to participate. You know better and express it, regardless of what they are on about. The table is the plane here, if you, the reader, fail to make the connection. Anyway same actually applies to Hartshorne, one should try to sit at his table. He (334) summarizes why he takes issue with the word:

“To presume that the reader will know what the word means, is, in the case of ‘landscape,’ to presume the impossible. If a writer is unable to state precisely what he means by the term, his use of it is a confession that he does not know just what he is talking about, but is using a more or less conventional word to hide that fact, if not to permit him to perform conjurer’s tricks with logic that would not be possible in straight English.”

While that perhaps assumes a bit too much ill will by the ones who do use the word, he does have a point. I find this a problem in linguistic landscape research where there is ample discussion of the first part, what linguistic entails in the research, but little discussion of what the second part entails, what is meant by landscape. Joshua Nash ponders this in his aptly titled article ‘Is linguistic landscape necessary?’. He (381) first points out the obvious, linguistic landscape research “most commonly takes its point of departure in linguistics rather than landscape studies.” He (384) eventually answers his own question by stating that linguistic landscape is not necessary as a separate subfield. Instead, he (384) argues that linguistics and landscape studies need and benefit from one another. I have not read all relevant landscape publications (who has?), but to me it’s clear that there is actually a lack of studies on language in landscape. It’s usually implicit, in passing, and among landscape studies I can only think of a handful of articles that have focused on language in landscape. Why that is, I have no idea. All I know is that there’s too much reliance on a taken for granted use of the word landscape in linguistic landscape studies, often in reference to the article published by Landry and Bourhis.


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