Landscape, absence and the geographies of love
Working out from an encounter with a series of memorial benches at Mullion Cove, Cornwall, this paper develops an account of landscape in terms of absence and the non-coincidence of self and world. Arguing that recent work on the topics of landscape, embodiment, perception and material culture has tended to stress presence in various ways, I seek to explore instead here motifs of absence, distance, loss and haunting. The paper further attempts to combine descriptive and experiential accounts of the memorial benches and the views they open with conceptual arguments regarding the limits of certain phenomenological understandings of self and landscape. In particular, Derrida’s critical reading of Merleau-Ponty is outlined and explored. The final substantive section of the paper then takes a further cue from the memorial benches to discuss what it terms the geographies of love. The argument here is that such geographies constitute a fracture forbidding any phenomenological fusion of self and world, entailing instead a simultaneous opening-onto and distancing-from. It is within the tension of this openness and distance, perhaps, that landscape, absence and love are entangled.
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