I am surprised that I had never heard of “odology” before this week’s reading on J.B. Jackson. It seems to encapsulate that clichéd American ideal of being footloose, and fascinates me on a personal level since I have always loved driving for the sake of sightseeing.
In Chapter 5, Timothy Davis speculates about the future of odology in light of the lack of contemporary “Jacksonian approach[es] to landscape studies in general” (76). (Maybe the fact that I had never so much as heard the term “odology” until now implies that Davis’ fears were well founded.) It is true that cultural landscapes and roads themselves have changed since Jackson’s time; however, these changes should not be the demise of odology’s significance to American cultural studies.
Perhaps Jackson’s approach is not now irrelevant, as Davis wonders, but evolving. I think that cultural landscapes can and should be studied on an ideological level in addition to the physical; while physical landscapes may change drastically over time, there is of course significance in how they change, and even behind the implication of change itself. More than just canvases for cultural expression as Jackson saw them, roads are also ideological symbols themselves. Old scenic byways and the interstate highway system, for example, denote different underlying American values, and their respective decline and development demonstrate how cultural ideologies have changed over time. George Henderson most clearly acknowledges this ideological approach to landscape studies in Chapter 11 in his identification of “landscape as discource”—“the idea that the landscape is an ideological expression” (182).