Saturday, 3 October 2015

On order

Thanks to Sharon Witt for the tipoff to this book, which I have now ordered.
It's about the Norfolk Broads, and offers a range of interesting short pieces on the nature of the landscape in that area. Written by David Matless.
Scope for using the approach to explore other regions with students...

The introduction discusses an injunction by Georges Perec to ‘see more flatly’ (wryly apt considering the landscape being seen), and the pieces do try to look beyond official accounts of place to draw on tiny concrete details, lived experience, historical perspective, technical boating matters, economics, and so on and so forth. Of course, unless you note everything, the very act of selecting details unflattens them, making (to mix my spatial metaphors horribly) salient features out of what had been background trifles. Similarly, the alphabetical ordering of the pieces is a way of insisting on the ‘non-hierarchical’ approach; I think Matless wouldn’t object if you read them in a random order, as if you were yourself wandering around the Broads, making your own way.
Matless is a geographer, and the introduction does frame the pieces as ‘geographical descriptions,’ but anyone coming to the discipline without a prior knowledge of cultural geography would be amazed by the lack of a ‘neutral’/’objective’ voice, lack of argumentative rigour and even of argument, and lack of traditional academic apparatus such as referencing. Of course, the move away from that rather chimerical lifebelt is one of the characteristic and exciting features of the contemporary cultural geographer. 
Got to love a book that starts with Georges Perec...

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