Geographers’ Landscapes

IN THE FIRST HALF of the twentieth century geographers sought to establish universal laws such as those found in physics or chemistry in their science. Environmentalism was earlier rejected because it was regarded as insufficiently scientific.[i]

Eminent geographer Denis Cosgrove points out that early geographers and teachers like Freidrich Ratzel (1844-1904), William Morris Davis (1850-1934) and Andrew John Herbertson (1865-1915), as well as methodologists who followed them such as Alfred Hettner (1859-1941), Richard Hartshorne (1899-1992) and Carl Sauer (1889-1975), all regarded geography primarily as a positive science.[ii]

[i] Denis E. Cosgrove, Social and Symbolic Landscape (Croom Helm, London & Sydney, 1984), 261.

[ii] Ibid, 260-261.

Landscapes of Geography

“Although the land exists, ‘the scape
is a projection of human consciousness,
an image received’.”
– Erlich

“Mentally or physically, we frame the view,
and our appreciation depends on our frame of mind.”
– J. Douglas Porteous

“Landscape is not merely the world we see,
it is a construction, a composition of the world.
Landscape is a way of seeing the world.”
– Denis Cosgrove

GEOGRAPHY IS ABOVE ALL the study of landscape. For geographers, the idea of landscape has undergone change and this is especially so from the mid-twentieth century onwards. Landscape has developed from a purely positivist and modernist, empiricist based concept, towards a cultural, humanist, existential, perceptual and postmodernist exploration. Landscape is now recognised by geographers as an inner perceptual conception.
The case here is that landscape is a ‘focus of perception’ . By ‘focus of perception’ is meant a focus in seeing, feeling, being and relating – and as such it is intrinsic to the psyche. The literary, the existential, the phenomenal and the imaginal, in the archetypal depths of the psyche, are all recognised by postmodern geographers as relevant. The academic study of ‘geography of religion’ has become a geography of landscape spirituality.