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Keywords:

  • common landscapes;
  • landscape reading;
  • landscape vocabulary;
  • Bellefonte;
  • Pennsylvania

ABSTRACT. Students of human landscapes often view those landscapes as documents and seek to “read” them for cultural and historical meaning. But how does one learn to read landscape? And how can students be taught to do it? After many years of teaching courses about commonplace American landscapes, I have discovered that students must learn two things before they can expect to read human landscapes. First, they must learn to pay attention to commonplace things which most Americans normally ignore. Second, they must master vocabularies that permit them to classify elements in the landscape and to connect small things with larger ideas. Two examples in the landscape of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania—the town's war memorial and a scattering of California bungalows-demonstrate how these ideas work.