Writing landscapes inevitably occurs in dialogue with a long textual and pictorial tradition, but first-hand experience also provides key stimuli to many writers’ accounts. This monograph employs a comparative lens to offer an intervention in debates between literary scholars who focus on genre and those cultural geographers who are concerned that self-perpetuating literary tropes marginalize practical engagements. Suggesting that representation and experience are not competing paradigms for landscape, Daniel Weston argues that in the hands of contemporary writers they are complementary forces building composite articulations of place. In five case studies, Weston matches a writer to a mode of apprehending place - W.G. Sebald with picturing, Ciaran Carson with mapping, Iain Sinclair with walking, Robert Macfarlane with engaging, Kathleen Jamie with noticing. Drawing out a range of sites at which representation and experience interact, Weston's argument is twofold: first, interaction between traditions of landscape writing and direct experience of landscapes are mutually influential; and second, writers increasingly deploy style, form, and descriptive aesthetics to recover the experience of place in the poetics of the text itself. As Weston shows, emergent landscape writing shuttles across generic boundaries, reflecting the fact that the landscapes traversed are built out of a combination of real and imaginary sources.
Daniel Weston is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century English Literature at the University of Hull, UK.