Classical liberalism and american landscape representation: The imperial self in nature

Ethics, Place and Environment 13 (1):75 – 96 (2010)
Here it is shown that 'vacant nature' is deployed as sign in Anglo-American landscape representation of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries to support a Cartesian imaginary of spatial extension. The referent of this imaginary is variously denoted as 'America' (John Locke), the 'north west' (Jefferson), the 'wilderness' (Ralph Waldo Emerson), and the 'frontier' (Frederick Jackson Turner) but throughout it is essentially the same 'vacant' landscape; its function is to produce a site and space of appearance for an imperial self, an isolate pursuing self-extension through commodity production and consumption. This spatial representation—the predecessor of the abstract space of shopping malls, interstates, commercial advertising, global markets, office buildings, and suburbs—is contrasted with 'place,' a space shaped by topography, collective memory, and ecological constraint
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DOI 10.1080/13668790903554238
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John Locke (2007). Second Treatise on Government. In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell Pub. Ltd.
Drew Leder (1990). The Absent Body. University of Chicago Press.

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