Recovering the Substantive Nature of Landscape


Correspondence: Man and Nature, Humanities Research Center, Odense University, Hollufgaard, Hestehaven 201, 5220 Odense SØ, Denmark.


The full complexity of the ideas of landscape and nature has been largely lost due to a modern tendency to appropriate the meaning of landscape to a concept of nature as scenery. The resulting conflation of meaning has not only led to questionable forms of determinism, it has obscured the substantive meaning of landscape, and related concepts, in European and North American culture. This study of the evolving meaning of a key geographical term advocates a substantive conception of landscape in which substantive is used to mean “real rather than apparent,”“belonging to the substance of a thing.” It is also used in the legal sense of “creating and defining rights and duties.”A substantive concept of landscape is more concerned with social law and justice than with natural law or aesthetics. This essay will seek to recover this substantive meaning of landscape through an historical and geographical analysis of the transformations of meaning undergone by the concepts of landscape and nature.