The University of Wisconsin Press | Fall 2013 - page 2

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“Tuan locates romantic geography in the heroic quests that won a deep
understanding of place, the more remote and challenging the better. His
vision of humanity’s persistent hunger to reject familiar comfort for the
new and strange is highly persuasive.”
—William Howarth, author of
with Thoreau
Geography is useful, indeed necessary, to survival. Everyone must know where to
find food, water, and a place of rest, and, in the modern world, all must make an
effort to make the Earth—our home—habitable. But much present-day geogra-
phy lacks drama, with its maps and statistics, descriptions and analysis, but no
acts of chivalry, no sense of quest. Not long ago, however, geography was roman-
tic. Heroic explorers ventured to forbidding environments—oceans, mountains,
forests, caves, deserts, polar ice caps—to test their power of endurance for reasons
they couldn’t fully articulate. Why climb Everest? “Because it is there.”
Yi-Fu Tuan has established a global reputation for deepening the field of geog-
raphy by examining its moral, universal, philosophical, and poetic potentials and
implications. In his twenty-second book,
Romantic Geography
, he continues to
engage the wide-ranging ideas that have made him one of the most influential
geographers of our time. In this elegant meditation, he considers the human ten-
dency—stronger in some cultures than in others—to veer away from the middle
ground of common sense to embrace the polarized values of light and darkness,
high and low, chaos and form, mind and body. In so doing, venturesome humans
can find salvation in geographies that cater not so much to survival needs (or
even to good, comfortable living) as to the passionate and romantic aspirations of
their nature
. Romantic Geography
is thus a paean to the human spirit, which can
lift us to the heights but also plunge us into the abyss.
Quest . . . is at the heart of romance. Explorers are driven by the desire to know
the source of the Nile, what it is like at the Poles or on top of the highest moun-
tain, with no worldly recompense in mind. Astronomers are glued to their
telescopes, located on a mountain or in the desert, peering at stars that shine
brightly but were in fact extinct millions of years ago. If one wonders, what for?
the answer may well be that they delight in romances of the mind.
—excerpt from
Romantic Geography
© The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.
Yi-Fu Tuan
is the J. K. Wright and Vilas Professor
Emeritus of Geography at the University of
Wisconsin–Madison and author of twenty-two
books, including
Morality and Imagination, The Good
Life, Human Goodness,
and his autobiography,
Am I?
, published by the University of Wisconsin
Press, and
Humanist Geography,
published by
George Thompson Publishing.
 LC: 2013010425 G
184 PP. 5 ½ × 7 ¼ 6 B/W ILLUS.
E-BOOK $16.95 T ISBN 978-0-299-29683-4
“Yi-Fu Tuan’s examples are bracing,
from Captain Nemo to the Adelie
penguins. Few people can match
his knowledge and ability to write
reasonably and resoundingly about
important themes and to link those
themes to individual meaning,
binding people to place.”
—Paul F. Starrs, author of
Black Rock
Melanie McCalmont
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