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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

The Grammar of Landscape

Monday, July 31, 2006

Writing in the Guardian Review this weekend, Richard Mabey uses a phrase that struck me as quite apt. Recollecting how he learnt to see the signs of his natural surroundings, Mabey talks about the “grammar of landscape.” Myself an amateur photographer, my girlfriend a geologist, both of us have been taught through our disciplines more closely to understand the underlying constructions of the environment. Taking Mabey's analogy further, we have learnt to see how hills rhyme in valleys and peaks, how changes in the quality of light punctuate the day, why limestone dashes in white scars across valleys, to know the snaking bends of a river as a past tense indicator of the period of its existence. It is revealing the “grammar of landscape” that is the art and practice of both photography and the environmental sciences. But if grammar is the construction, it is not the writing itself. What I particularly like about the phrase is that understanding does not exclude the aesthetics of landscape, which are intuitively felt in the air on your face, in the unlimited frames of the eye, in the sounds of water and wildlife. Like literary criticism at its best, the skill of being a close reader is to show how that art takes the unique forms it does, without losing the quality of its spontaneous and uncritical experience.


Posted by Alistair at 4:56 pm


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