Foundation: A Sense of Place: Values and Identity
The Romans called it genius loci. Modern thinkers and writers call it “a sense of place.” Today, diverse disciplines are rekindling an awareness of the importance of the concept of place. Prominent poets, novelists, historians, architects, geographers, literary critics, folklorists, preservationists, and urbanists/communitarians are exploring place’s significance to their disciplines, their visions of society, and in their personal lives. And now twenty-first century neuroscientists are offering new perspectives into the cause and effect of place. “Place Matters” was the title of the 2015 Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs’ annual conference. Place is not mere geography. It is a cerebral and emotional blend of associations, an awareness that is part physical, part science, and part history, culture and social memory, an affective bond between people and place or settings. Place can take the form of a community, a neighborhood, a building, a room, or a memory site. It can be Walden Pond, Old Faithful, or Huck Finn’s raft on the Mississippi, the Land of Oz, or Camelot. Some find place in a flag, a ceremony, a ritual, a dish of food, a song, or an event. Ground Zero, Little Big Horn, Chartres Cathedral, Julia Child’s kitchen, or a small town’s park or library can be a place. So can your grandfather’s workshop or an author’s oeuvre such as Wendell Berry’s Port William, KY or Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, MS. It can have meaning to a person, a community, a nation, or mankind. The United Nations designates over nine hundred “world heritage sites.” In sum, place is a way of understanding the world and ourselves.
Note: 150 minutes of distance learning required. Attendance at first class strongly advised. Follow Mon/Wed rule. First class session is Wed., Jan. 18.