The idea of landscape has emerged as a crucial area of investigation in the recent times. Landscape in broad terms, refers to the element of space, a term which finds its place in almost every discipline. The word ‘landscape’, when analyzed leads to multiple interpretations. Edward Casey describes it as ‘an ongoing cultural process with an experimental edge.’
The word land stands for human-occupied place and scape implies ‘to form’. Traditionally, the word was used to emphasize upon the aesthetic nature of an area. In doing so, the visual was given precedence over the other senses. James Brinkerhoff Jackson, the writer of Vernacular Landscapes describes two kinds of landscapes- political and inhabited . The former is a defined territory with symbols representing an ordered space, the latter is a region embedded in a sense of mundane-ness, premised on the relationship between humans and nature.
In the recent years, landscape has been understood as an area where nature and culture are in sync with each other. The use of the term landscape in this study is in lieu of the larger dimensions it encapsulates. Within its dynamic framework, there are concepts of space and place. The former is seen as an objective, infinite area while the latter is considered as a human-integrated and subjective entity.
The familiarity with an area gradually effaces its defining aesthetic atmosphere and that is precisely how a ‘landscape’ becomes a ‘place’. As John Barrell says,-“The more we become familiar with the area, the more inevitable will be the transition from the aesthetic to the instrumental, from landscape to place.”
There have been several patterns in the way landscape has been depicted in the past. The association of landscape with the ‘aesthetic’ has been the most common framework. Then the idea of landscape as ‘conflict’ came up which can be understood with reference to the two world wars. It was followed by the view of landscape as sacred and myth as seen in the postcolonial responses of Magic Realism. The most recent one is looking at the landscape as text. Just like a text is open to multiple interpretations, similarly a landscape.
Landscape and Literature
When we situate the term within the framework of literature, it assumes a multi-layered position on account of its connection with the several offshoots of knowledge. The connection between landscape and literature encompasses the geographical dimension wherein, we need to go beyond literature to accommodate the idea of space as a crucial element. In order to explore this connection, it is imperative to adopt an inter-disciplinary approach to place the disciplines of geography and literature within a single framework.
This particular connection needs to be decoded through several dimensions to arrive at a nuanced position in terms of the relationship between the two. ‘Landscape in literature’ and ‘Literature in Landscape’ both the connections have to be judiciously analyzed while attempting to undertake a holistic study of their bond. Within this framework, one needs to go beyond the linguistic and literary aspects and encompass the real, physical spaces. Thus, the focus remains on bringing together different areas of knowledge through the element of ‘space’.