English Student Talks Topophilia

matt craft
Below, Matt Craft, a history major and English minor at Belmont University, shares some ideas about topophilia, love of place, as it is connected to his college home at Belmont. Matt’s ideas derive from a research project he is working on for ENW 3560, a class on ecocomposition.

Topo-what?

Greetings literateurs and topophiliacs! Matt Craft here. I usually talk up a storm on The Bruin History Blog. But today, as a writing minor, I am going inter-disciplinarian and discussing the notion of topophilia. You could be complicit . . . LOL!

In 1974, Chinese-American scholar Yi-Fu Tuan published a crucial first book entitled Topophilia. His work on the human “love of place and people’s perceptions, attitudes, and values surrounding their environments” [1] might find a home in Dr. Lovvorn’s Reading and Writing in the Genres course. Beginning his work in the 1950s, Tuan pioneered the field of humanist geography, blending the study of place with the disciplines of philosophy, art, religion, and psychology. [2]

The experience of place plays a significant role in college selection for most prospects; certainly for me, the experience of Belmont’s campus on both the physical and psychological levels influenced my decision to join the Bruin family. Campus is a powerful concept in contemporary culture; a campus supplies a selling point, functions as an internally constructed home, and serves as liminal space at the edge of adulthood. Five and one half years living on and observing the Belmont campus comprise my physical field research which complements Tuan’s assertions on how people configure their own mental and emotional spaces.

This campus is home for resident students, certainly, and home to commuters in deeper ways than they may realize. How do we craft homes for ourselves beyond our childhood domiciles? Tuan asserts that we, through topophilia, began to create a home here as soon as we chose the college and its campus. The campus is a designed space, yes, but Tuan envisions more than attractive landscaping in his claims. Belmont’s setting appeals to us because it seems to offer a crucial ingredient of home: chances for meaningful exchange, both between peers and between professors and students. Moreover, we partake in another crucial ingredient for home: rituals.[3] From Towering Traditions to showcases to Bruin basketball victories and graduations, we regularly share these events. Thus we are infused a love of place, or topophilia. The shared experience of coming to adulthood here transforms Belmont into a lifelong home. Small wonder that our loyalty to our college alma maters is so lasting and strong.

Thanks for reading, fellow topophiliacs!     -Matt

Bibliography

Briney, Amanda. “Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan.” about.com.geography. March 13, 2009.
http://geography.about.com/od/historyofgeography/a/yifutuan.html. 14 Nov. 2013.

Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977; rptd. 1981.

Endnotes

[1] Amanda Briney, “Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan.”
[2] Ibid.
[3] Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977;1981), 136-148.