Cultural Landscape Studies

I began this week’s readings with J.B. Jackson’s piece “To Pity the Plumage and Forget the Dying Bird.” I had several questions about the article, such as, who decides what is urban, rural, or what it considered picturesque? And above all why were roads his answer to every problem? In general I thought the article had some valid points, but could never quite understand how adequate roads were going to fix poverty.

The selected readings from Everyday America helped to clear up a lot of my confusion. The loose definition to cultural landscape and introduction to the Landscape publication gave context to the article. This led me to believe that just jumping to a Landscape magazine would be difficult without knowing who Jackson was and where his ideas where coming from. In chapter 5, Timothy Davis said “Jackson sought to understand the modern motorway on its own terms and relate it to broader social and historical patterns.” This statement answers my question about “To Pity the Plumage and Forget the Dying Bird.” It makes sense that roads would be the fix for every problem if you are trying to prove that new roadways are imperative to our future social success. That being said, I still do not agree with Jackson’s article, however I do agree with the idea of cultural landscape studies.  

I believe that cultural landscape studies are another possible definition for applied historical research. The idea is open to varying studies of archeology, architecture, history, and sociology to name a few. As I see it cultural landscape study is a historical analysis of modern times.  History, as we all know, is complex; there are several different kinds of historians-social, political, cultural, environmental, ect. This mirrors the concept of cultural landscape studies. Cultural landscapes characterize what is happening at the time. Cultural landscapes studies can be an invaluable primary resource. It gives a clear historical analysis that will be helpful to any historian interested, in Jackson’s case, on the history of roadways in America.

My thoughts exactly…

There are a few things I would like to comment on out of these chapters; starting at chapter 1 seems to make sense. I would like to note that while I do feel some advantage from taking a public history course from Leslie M-B before, rest assured I am fully aware of my status as an undergrad and thus at somewhat of a disadvantage; MAN this blogging thing is fun! =)

Back to the situation at hand…Chapter One discusses the beginnings of the term “Cultural Landscape” and society’s hesiation to coin anything as cultural when this idea first came into the picture, is somewhat reminiscent of the issue of Public History and defining what that means as well, both to the indvidual, and what is means for the community as a whole. The discussion of the development of the word “landscape” to benefit the desired definition is quite inventive, I must say. This is not to say I find it incorrect, but it was entertaining…for me a least.
The jump from defining cultural landscaping and breaking it in to society to chapter 5 and its “odology” isn’t much of a stretch in my mind. Chapter one was about coining a term and integrating it into society while being well-recieved, and so is the idea of the study of roads. Though, admittedly, the first time I read this chapter, I had myself a few giggles. And “King of the Road” has been stuck in my head for 2 days. Moving on: Jackson’s perception of the American Highway was before its time. For many, the restauraunts on Route 66 (or your favorite alternate highway) were/are places to stop and fill up you cars, bellies, what have you. The observation that these are all definitions of American Culture and society (and public history at that) was genious.
This is getting wordy so I suppose I should wrap things up. Chapter 11 somewhat reflects some of the previous thoughts of defining things the right way to ensure that they are successfully accepted by society, whether that means “positivism,” preying of the idea that politics will benefit greatly, benefits of its acceptance for the community, and what it will mean for the future. A cultural landscape ideology was a good way to describe it.
Alright, now I’ll be done.
These are my thougts.