Archive for the 'Literary Landscapes' Category

Thesis Finished!

It’s been a very long haul but I am finally finished my Master of Landscape Architecture degree at the University of Guelph. I entered the landscape architecture field in large part through my love of history, and I hope I will be able to find a job that allows me to exercise my interests towards making a meaningful contribution to the cultural landscapes of Nova Scotia/the Atlantic Provinces (my heart is on the East Coast). At the very least, I hope to blog here a bit more frequently now that the weight of always having an unfinished thesis has been lifted off my shoulders. For reasons almost exclusively rooted in self-promotion (not something I do well, so I’ve decided to seize the moment while it lasts), here is the abstract for my recently completed thesis:

Meaning and Imagined Memories: Exploring Literary Landscape Theory Through the Aesthetics of Lucy Maud Montgomery

This thesis explores the theory of literary landscapes. The research is composed primarily of an interdisciplinary literature review that draws on landscape architectural theory, tourism studies, literary criticism, and landscape history and cultural geography, as well as archival research and site visits. It positions literary landscapes in relation to the landscape meaning discourse, and argues that they are an essentially experiential way of perceiving landscape through the use of “imagined memories” by the literary visitor. Using the example of L.M. Montgomery, the research explores how understanding an author’s landscape aesthetic can reveal past and present meaning in the landscape, and how this aesthetic—understood formally, thematically, and as embodied experience—allows us to understand the range of literary visitor motivations and expectations, as well as encouraging the exploration of how landscape architects might design, manage, and interpret literary landscapes based on an author’s aesthetic.

If you have an interest in reading my thesis, you can find it here.


Cape Breton – Elizabeth Bishop

I was reading the Complete Works of poet Elizabeth Bishop last night, and was struck again with how perfect Bishop’s poem “Cape Breton” captures what I always thought construction season must have been like on the island during mid-century (and I thought about that quite a bit while I was writing my thesis). In the poem, the construction of the coastal road, abandoned on Sunday, serves to enhance the mystery of the interior. It’s all ocean and hill and mist and road and then a little bus rolls down the dusty road packed with people going about their Sunday business (including “today only two preachers extra, one carrying his frock coat on a

The entire poem is after the jump: Continue reading ‘Cape Breton – Elizabeth Bishop’

Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie


IN THE Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pré
Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward,
Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened, and welcomed the sea to wander at will o’er the meadows.
West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and corn-fields
Spreading afar and unfenced o’er the plain; and away to the northward
Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains
Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy valley, but ne’er from their station descended.
There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1847.

Evangeline was “the” poem that put Nova Scotia on the tourist map, although it took a few decades (and a steamship, and a railroad) for the hordes to show up in earnest. The sort of literary tourism that grew up from the poem was rooted in the romance (and tragedy) of the story, but was also inspired by Longfellow’s descriptions of the Annapolis Valley landscape. His “forest primeval” stuff is, in my opinion, a little excessive – the Acadian forest habitat is hardly dark and gloomy, and it really has the most adorable chipmunks – but it was the contrast between the forbidding nature and the Acadian’s edenic, pastoral paradise, that really seemed to get the tourist’s attention. And when it comes to the pastoral and the picturesque, I’m just as guilty as those early tourists; the Grand Pré area is still very beautiful.


Can we hold Longfellow to account for any inaccuracies of landscape depicted in his poem? After all, he never actually saw the place, except for in his mind’s eye. Longfellow used two primary sources for his poem, the Abbé Guillaume Raynal (1770) and one of our best intellectuals, Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton, whose 1829 History of Nova Scotia provided a description of the surrounding area and the view of Blomidon which made its way into the poem.

The images from this post are taken from an 1850 edition of the poem, available here at Google Books.

Literary Landscapes will be a recurring feature of this blog. If you have any books or excerpts about Nova Scotia’s landscape that you think I should include, feel free to drop me a comment or email.