Place and Space and the Environment

There is both a fantastic contrast, and close similarities  between the sense of non-space painted by Purpura, in her article “There Are Things Awry Here”, and Dillard. It would seem that Purpura is pacing a strip shopping center, and visiting the physical location, and its temporal history. The highly altered non-space creating the contrast, and the project and stream-of-consciousness of the visitation providing the similarities.

I want to start by saying how interesting it is, that we noted in class how Purpura does not necessarily consider herself an environmental writer. To be fair, this piece is full of history and starts out sounding so critical, that I suppose it could be taken as a social or political commentary. But, I still think that, the first impression from the first read is that this a text with a strong environmental tenor. Even during her discussion of the people and the air force school they lived at, repeated references to the land it happened on, draw us back to a physical and spatial context–an environmental context.

I think that maybe it is this fact that provides the greatest similarity to Dillard. In Dillard’s writing, everything always comes back to the land. Roanoke is set against a backdrop of mountains and creeks and pastureland, and all discussions, even those beginning in the human world or at the atomic level, come back to the physical environment.

To bring this out to my prior entry, on the writings of Dillard when compared to those of Elizabeth Kolbert, I think this provides a second tenant, or at the least, characteristic , of nature and science writing for the masses. If you’ll recall, the first characteristic I mentioned was a tendency to pan in and out from a broad, universal “zoomed out” view, to a very detailed detailed view, in order to show the interconnectedness of the natural world. I would propose that in this comparison on Dillard and Purpura, we see that this second characteristic is a tendency to be rooted in a sense of space or, more ironically, a discussion of how a place becomes a non-place (as in Pupura).


One thought on “Place and Space and the Environment

  1. I completely agree that Purpura has a distinct focus on the natural world even as she writes about history in a critical sense. Her awareness of the earth and the world around her is striking particularly as she wanders and considers the etymologies of her surroundings. Purpura’s instinct for natural language gives an interesting context to her understanding of how people interact with the environment.


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