Blockseminar Place and Experience: A Course in Philosophical Topography

Referring to the Westmoreland landscape that figures in one of Wordsworth’s most famous poems, ‘Michael’, the English poet Laureate Seamus Heaney writes in one of his essays of the Wordsworthian landscape that it is both ‘humanised and humanising’. The landscape, or more generally, the place, is thus seen by Heaney as itself having a human character, while it also makes human those who live within it. The mutuality between place and human being that is suggested here will be a central theme in this course as we explore the way in which place, and the sense of place, connect with notions of self and identity, with the nature of action and the structure of content, and with concepts of space and time. The course will draw on literary sources such as Heaney and Wordsworth, but it will also examine the way in which the idea of place (and associated notions of landscape and homeland – Heimat) connects up with contemporary thinking in both the Analytic and Hermeneutic traditions – particularly with the work of Donald Davidson and Martin Heidegger. The course will make reference both to my 1999 book, Place and Experience (Cambridge UP) and also my 2006 volume Heidegger’s Topology (MIT). The course will be wide ranging in its compass exploring issues that are central to contemporary philosophical thought, but also connecting with issues in geography, anthropology, sociology, history, music, literature and film.