The Landscape Space Place Research Group

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world": How we think about talking about space, place and landscape

Trent A35
Wednesday 29th March 2017 (15:00-16:00)

Our next LSP Session will take place a week today on Wednesday 29th March, 3-4pm in Trent A35. We hope you will be able to join us for a session led by Philip Jones, titled: "'The limits of my language mean the limits of my world': How we think about talking about space, place and landscape.” Philip has kindly provided two texts and a short introduction to his session:

This session emerges less from a particular element of my work and more from a general underlying issue. As someone interested in the relationship between literature and geography I have often found myself thinking about the capacity of language to adequately describe and reflect experiences of space and place. What can and can’t we say about the world we inhabit? Are there limits to the ways we can understand space and place because of language? How do we confront the seemingly silent spaces of the world? This is something I have a few ideas on but nothing well thought out so I thought it would be something useful to bring to the group and talk through with people. I’m particularly interested to see first of all if this is a concern that emerges particularly from looking at a certain type of twentieth century poetry, or if it is something present in studying other forms of literature. It is also something I am keen to discuss with people from other disciplines. Do those of us from history or geography have similar anxieties about the ways we talk and write about space and place? Because of this I intend this session to be discursive and exploratory. I have no specialist knowledge to dispense onto you all, just a curiosity about the capacity of saying and writing to reflect our experiences of being in the world.

The two papers I have suggested it might be useful to read for this session present two different ways of thinking about this ‘language problem’. The first is Val Plumwood’s essay ‘Journey to the Heart of Stone’ in which she argues about the need to re-enchant matter. For Plumwood, given the ecological crises we face, it is imperative to employ a radically open form of environmental writing. In relation to this paper it might be worth thinking about the ethical problems of writing about and for the ecological other and whether we can ever have a language that is radically de-centred from human experience. The second paper approaches this question of language and place from a different perspective. This section from John Wiley’s Landscape is an overview of geographical thinking about the trope of ‘landscape-as-text’. For this extract it might be interesting to think about what it means to take the landscape/text metaphor more literally and how this discourse relates to the more environmentally minded ideas put forward by Plumwood.

  • Val Plumwood, 'Journey to the Heart of Stone', in Culture, Creativity and Environment, ed. by Fiona Becket and Terry Gifford (Rodopi, 2007), pp. 17-36
  • John Wylie, 'Landscape as Text: Semiotics and the Construction of Cultural Meaning', in Landscape (Routledge, 2007), pp. 70-82

As usual, all texts circulated to those on the mailing list in advance of the session.

We look forward to seeing many of you there next week!

Centre for Regional Literature and Culture

Trent Building
University of Nottingham
University Park

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5910
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 5924