Landscape, Society and Meaning

Schedule and readings (subject to change). 

Any changes of assignment deadlines and readings will be announced in class and posted here.

I will send copies of readings by email.

This page contains the class schedule: May 13 | May 14 | May 15 | May 16 | May 17 | May 20 | May 21  | May 22 | May 23 | May 24 | May 27 (Holiday, No class) | May 28 | May 29 | May 30  | May 31 |

Related pages: General Information | Notes and Study Materials | Assignments | Landscape, Society and Meaning Homepage | CU Geography Homepage |

May 13: Introduction

Introductions.  Overview of course.  Framing and researching questions about ordinary landscapes.

May 14: Axioms for reading landscape

Topics: What interpretive and critical principles can geographers apply to the ordinary landscapes of everyday life? If the landscape is a "unwitting biography" what are some questions that can be posed of what we see?
Readings: Lewis, Peirce. 1979. Axioms for reading the landscape: Some guides to the American scene. In The interpretation of ordinary landscapes: Geographical essays, ed. D. W. Meinig, 11-32.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Jackson, J. B. 1994. The westward-moving house: Three American houses and the people who lived in them. In Re-reading cultural geography, eds. K. Foote, P. Hugill, K. Mathewson, J. Smith, 64-81. Austin: University of Texas Press.

1) Read through class assignments and consider which projects and topics you would like to complete for course.

2) Work with your assigned team to interpret in words and images (photographs, maps, or other sources) one of Lewis's axioms.  You can use Bing, Google, Wikipedia, Google Map & Earth, to search for suitable examples.  Working with your team prepared a 3-slide PPT presentation on the axiom you have been assigned.  We will count off in class to determine the axiom on which you will focus.

May 15: Learning from Looking

Topics: Learning from looking can a good first step, but we also need to be careful in making inferences from what we see. If the landscape is a sort of "unwitting biography," it is important to realize that much can be hidden from view inadvertently or deliberately. What sorts of landscape elements are often left out of these biographies and why?
Readings: Foote, Ken. 2003. Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy, revised edition. Austin: University of Texas Press. Chapters 1-2.

Monk, Janice J. 1992. Gender in the landscape: Expressions of power and meaning. In Inventing places: Studies in cultural geography, eds. Kay Anderson and Fay Gale, 123-138. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.

(Optional) Domosh, Mona. 1988. The symbolism of the skyscraper: Case studies of New York's first tall buildings. Journal of Urban History 14 (3): 320-345.

(Optional) Hayden, Dolores. 1997. Urban landscape history: The sense of place and the politics of space. In Understanding ordinary landscapes, eds. Paul Groth and Todd W. Bressi, 111-133. New Haven: Yale University Press.
How does Jackson's westward-moving house apply to your family? Where has your family lived and what type of house has your family lived in recent generations? Trace backward at least three steps--the place where you lived the most during your childhood; where one (or more) of your parents grew up or lived; and where back to one (or more) of your grandparents or great-grand-parents grew up or lived)? How have the styles, size, and locations changed?

May 16: American Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy

Topics: How have people responded to events of tragedy and violence in the U.S.?

Foote, Ken. 2003. Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy, revised edition. Austin: University of Texas Press.  Chapters 3-5.

Kruse, Robert J., II 2003. Imagining Strawberry Fields as a place of pilgrimage. Area 35 (2): 154-162

Research your hometown, a city you like, or a city you would like to visit and try to find answers to the following questions:

1. What is the origin of its name?
2. Can you find the place where the city was first settled by looking at just a map or satellite image?
3. When was the town/city founded/incorporated? And how does the date of founding relate to its design?
4. Can you see patterns in the way the city has grown since its founding based just on the town plan and streets?

In the next two sessions we will be touching on a wide range of events mostly related to American history.  A list of some of these places can be downloaded here.

May 17: Memorializing College and University Tragedies

Topics: How are events of tragedy and violence remembered on college and university campuses? How have the patterns of commemoration changed through time? What events have been important in establishing precedents for commemoration?  View documentary movie by Amy Gerber, Public Memory.

Foote, Ken. 2003. Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy, revised edition. Austin: University of Texas Press.  Chapters 6-7.

Walker, Mark. 2003. The Ludlow massacre: Class, warfare, and historical memory in southern Colorado. Historical Archaeology 37 (3): 66-80.

A list of some of the places we will discuss in class can be downloaded here.

May 20: New Commemorative Landscapes of Race and Gender

Topics: Many issues of public memory remain in debate.  Our readings and discussion will on many of the hidden and invisible events in American history.
Readings: Jenks, Hillary. 2008. Urban space, ethnic community, and national belonging: The political landscape of memory in Little Tokyo. GeoJournal 73:231-244.

Hoskins, Gareth. 2007. Materialising memory at Angel Island Immigration Station, San Francisco. Environment and Planning A 39: 437-455.

Foote, Ken. 2003. Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy, revised edition. Austin: University of Texas Press. Chapters 8-10.
Download: Green, Victor.  1949. The Negro Motorist Green Book (complete scan provided by the The Henry Ford museum (92 MB pdf). Look through this guide and decide which city or state you would like to map. Have your spreadsheet of addresses ready for class tomorrow.

May 21: Travel, Tourism, Race and Place

Topics: We transition in this session from discussions of places of memory to places of travel and tourism. To make this link, we will continue to focus on racialized landscapes--that is, how race played a role in travel and tourism beginning in the twentieth century.

Aden, Roger. 2010. Redefining the “Cradle of Liberty”: The president’s house controversy in Independence National Historical Park. Rhetoric & Public Affairs 13 (2): 251–280.

Leib, Jonathan. 2006. The witting autobiography of Richmond, Virginia: Arthur Ashe, the Civil War, and Monument Avenue's racialized landscape.  In Landscape and Race in the United States, ed. Richard H. Schein, pp. 187-211.  New York: Routledge.

Assignment: Create fusion table and web page.  Be ready to discuss the patterns you found in your city.

May 22: Creating a Mashup of the Green Guide

Topics: How can you use Google Maps to visualize landscapes of inclusion and exclusion?

Guest lecture by Dr. Yong Tang for first half of class.
Readings: Foster, Mark S. 1999. In the face of "Jim Crow": Prosperous blacks and vacations, travel and outdoor leisure, 1890-1945.  The Journal of Negro History 84 (2): 130-149.

Seiler, Cotten. 2006. "So that we as a race might have something authentic to travel by": African American automobility and Cold-War liberalism. American Quarterly 58 (4): 1091-1117.

First project due by 5 pm.

May 23: Creating a Web Site about the Green Guide

Topics: What patterns do you see in the Green Guide sites?

Guest lecture by Susie Gunn.

Guest lecture by Sam Smith.
Readings: Alderman, Derek H. 2003. Street names and the scaling of memory: The politics of commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr within the African American community. Area 35 (2):163-173.

May 24: Mapping Other Travel and Tourist Guides

Topics: How can we use map mashups to explore other tourist guides, particularly those aimed at particular groups interested in specific types of attractions and destinations?
eadings: Loewen, James W. 2005. Sundown towns: A hidden dimension of American racism. New York : Touchstone/Simon and Schuster. Chapters 1 and 2.
In-class exercise to focus on the how cities advertise themselves to tourists.  If possible, also bring another travel guide to class to discuss or find one in the web. For suggestions, see the instructions for the travel and tourism project.

Homework assignment for next week on landscape painting and the American West.

May 27:  Memorial Day Holiday: No Class

Topics: No class.
Assignment: If you have time, I would encourage you to attend a Memorial Day ritual or ceremony in Boulder or elsewhere.

May 28: Landscape, Place and Space in Literature

Topics: Much of our knowledge of the world, including preconceptions, misconceptions, and stereotypes, are shaped by what we read in print and online media, see on TV, movies, YouTube, and hear in music. That is, our views of the world are very much mediated by media. In this first session, we will look at place and place-making as depicted in literature.

Pocock, D.C.D. 1988. Geography and literature. Progress in Human Geography 12 (1): 87-102.

Shortridge, James R. 1991. The concept of the place-defining novel in American popular culture. The Professional Geographer 43 (3): 280-291.

Use Project Gutenberg ( to find one quote from an author you know depicting place or a particular geographical setting.

May 29: Landscape Painting and the West

Topics: Fieldtrip to Leanin' Tree Museum

Ford, Larry. 1994.  Sunshine and shadow: Lighting and color in the depiction of cities on film.  In Place, power, situation and spectacle: A geography of film, eds. Stuart Aitken and Leo Zonn, 119-136. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

(Optional) Aitken, Stuart. 2002.  Tuning the self: City space and science fiction horror movies.  In Lost in space: Geographies of science fiction, eds. Rob Kitchin and James Kneale, 104-122. London: Continuum.  

Browse the museum website to get oriented: and

May 30: Landscape in Photography, Maps, Television, Advertising and Other Media

Topics: How are space and place represented in other media?
Readings: Arreola, Daniel D. and Nick Burkhart. 2010. Photographic postcards and visual urban landscape. Urban Geography 31 (7): 885-904.

Daniels, Stephen. 1993. Thomas Cole and the course of empire.  Chap. 5 in Fields of vision: Landscape imagery and national identity in England and the United States, 146-173. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sandweiss, Martha A. 1987.  Laura Gilpin and the tradition of American landscape painting. In The Desert is no lady: Southwestern landscapes in women's writing and art, eds. Norwood, Vera and Janice Monk, 62-73. New Haven: Yale University Press.

(Optional) Cosgrove, Denis E. and Veronica della Dora. 2005. Mapping global war: Los Angeles, the Pacific, and Charles Owens's pictorial cartography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 95 (2): 373-390.

(Optional) Pearce, Margaret W. 2008. Framing the Days: Place and Narrative in Cartography. Cartography and Geographic Information Science. 35 (1): 17-32.

In this assignment you will be working with art and photographs by major artists like Frederick Church, Georgia O'Keefe, Thomas Moran, Winslow Homer, Ansel Adams, William Henry Jackson, Jane Frank, and others. Details TBA.

31 May:  Conclusion

Topics: In this session, we will consider how place and place-making are depicted in film and television.  How does our work fit into broader social, economic, cultural and political patterns?

(Optional) Harvey, David. 1979. Monument and Myth. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69 (3): 362-381.

Meinig, Donald W. 1979. The beholding eye: Ten versions of the same scene. In The interpretation of ordinary landscapes: Geographical essays, ed. D. W. Meinig, 33-48. New York: Oxford University Press.
Second project due by 4 pm.

Find a YouTube video from a film or television show that depicts place. If you have access to Netflix, you might also look there for films that depict place or place-making.

No final exam.

Last revised 2013.5.24. KEF.