The Geographic Imagination of Modernity: Geography, Literature, and Philosophy in German Romanticism 9780804787482

The Geographic Imagination of Modernity traces the emergence of the geographic paradigm in modern Western thought in the

182 75 27MB

English Pages 368 [360] Year 2008

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

The Geographic Imagination of Modernity: Geography, Literature, and Philosophy in German Romanticism

Citation preview



Chenxi Tang


Stanford University Press Stanford, California

© 2008 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. Publication assistance for this book was provided by the University of California at Berkeley. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system without the prior written permission of Stanford University Press. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Tang, Chenxi, 1968The geographic imagination of modernity : geography, literature, and philosophy in German Romanticism I Chenxi Tang. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-o-8047-5839-0 (cloth: alk. paper) I. Geography-Germany-History. 2. Geography-Philosophy-History. 3· Romanticism-Germany-History. 4· Germany-Intellectual life-18th century. 5· Germany-Intellectual life-19th century. I. Title. G97.T36 2oo8 9IO.OI-dC22 2008004721 Typeset by Bruce Lundquist in 10/12.5 Sabon

For my mother






Part One. The Emergence of Modern Geography


I. The Reorganization of Geographic Knowledge around I8oo


The Aesthetic Origin of Modern Geography



3· The Philosophical Origin of Modern Geography

Part Two. Between Man and the Earth

98 I25

4· Orientation: Figurations of Oriented Space


5. Dwelling in Space: Figurations of Cultural Landscape


6. Dwelling in Time: Figurations of Geohistory












From the outset, this book was meant to revisit the notorious intellectual threshold "around I8oo" by bringing to light the hitherto hidden geographic archive of this period. A number of research libraries in Germany and elsewhere made this undertaking possible. I would like to thank, first of all, the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbuttel, not only for allowing me to use its excellent collection but also for generously granting me a fellowship between 2002 and 2004 to carry out the research. Additional research was conducted at the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar, Niedersachsische Staats- und Universitatsbibliothek in Gottingen, and at the rare book collection of Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago. I am grateful to the librarians at these institutions for their patient help and guidance. Earlier versions of some chapters in this book were presented at a number of professional conferences. I thank David Wellbery for inviting me to discuss part of the material in Chapter 2 at a workshop on eighteenthcentury literature held at the University of Chicago in October 2003; Gerhard Sauder for the invitation to the 2004 conference of the International Herder Society in Saarbrucken, at which I presented the material on Herder in Chapter 3; Hartmut Bohme for inviting me to discuss Chapter 4 at the DFG-Symposion "Topographien der Literatur" held at the Schlo!S Blankensee in October 2004; and Inka Mulder-Bach and Gerhard Neumann for the invitation to the 2004 conference of the Stiftung fur Romantikforschung in Munich, where I had the pleasure of presenting part of the material in Chapter 5. The book was written between 2002 and 2006 at the University of Chicago. I am grateful for the institutional support provided by the Department of Germanic Studies and the Franke Institute for Humanities, which awarded me a faculty fellowship in the academic year 2002-3. My colleagues in Chicago and the many guests who passed through Chicago during these years have taken great interest in this project, and some of them have read and commented on various parts of it. At the risk of incurring their embarrassment for being associated with a book that does not live up to their high standards, I would like to express my gratitude to the following colleagues, from whose knowledge and criticism this book has benefited: Christiane Frey, Albrecht Koschorke, Ethel Matala de Mazza, Helmut



Miiller-Sievers, Joseph Vogl, and David Wellbery. Klaus Simoni Pedersen read the first version of the manuscript in its entirety. My colleague and neighbor Robert Buch helped me survive the monastic life of Hyde Park by organizing, among other things, regular "burger nights" at a local bar. Last but not least, I am deeply indebted to Don Reneau for his expert proofreading and stylistic improvements through all the stages of writing. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from foreign languages are mine.



This book is a study of the rise of geography in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a conceptual matrix for understanding culture and society. It is well known that during this period of extraordinary intellectual ferment European society developed a pronounced historical consciousness. The historicization of human existence lies at the heart of what we call modernity. As a temporal category, modernity is characterized by constant historical reflections, that is, by the critical self-positioning of society within historical time. While acknowledging the pivotal role played by the concept of history in the identity of modern European society, this book draws attention to the equally crucial significance of the concept of geography. It argues that the moment European society came to deem historicity to be a fundamental mode of being in the world, it also realized that to be in the world necessarily meant to inhabit the earth and that geographic space was every bit as constitutive of human existence as historical time. Modernity, therefore, has an intrinsic spatial dimension.

The Geographic Imagination of Society The understanding of European modernity in terms of its concept of history is closely associated with the name Reinhart Koselleck. The foremost exponent and practitioner of conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte)-"a methodology of historical studies that focuses on the invention and development of the fundamental concepts (Begriffe) underlying and informing a distinctively historical (geschichtliche) manner of being in the world" 1-Koselleck establishes the occurrence in the period around I 8oo of an overall transformation of the semantic apparatus of European culture, with fundamental concepts in the social-political language "taking



on new meanings that in approximating our present are no longer in need of translation. " 2 The most crucial dimension of this profound semantic transformation that marks out the period as the threshold to modernity, according to Koselleck, consists in the temporalization (Verzeitlichung) of all aspects of human experience, in the discovery of specifically historical time. True as it is that European society has always had a sense of time and history, it is only in this period that it came to believe in a radical difference between historical time and natural time, with the former "tied to social and political units of action, to particular acting and suffering human beings, and to their institutions and organizations" while severed from and independent of the temporal rhythm of natural processes. 3 Along with the denaturalization of historical time, myriad historical experiences, the multiple layers (Schichten) of historical time, are bundled together into one whole history, into the "collective singular" Geschichte, with a temporal structure characterized by linearity, open-endedness, and a sense of unceasing acceleration. 4 From the perspective of the temporality of the whole of history, which overrides all other temporalities, the complexity and heterogeneity of social reality come to be experienced as the chronological simultaneity of the historically noncontemporaneous (Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen). At the same time, this historical temporality begins to function as a causal force in the determination of social reality in its own right, as the relationships among diverse social groups are mapped onto the temporal axis and assessed in terms of their historical significance. Historical assessment and reflection, in turn, incite the social groups concerned to take action with a view to adjusting to and restructuring their relationships. With social reality thus historicized and transformed into historical reality, the knowledge of historical reality cannot avoid being historicized as well, as historians become aware of the temporal disparity between this reality and the standpoint from which they try to reconstruct it in retrospect, and of the gap between historical reality and the language available for representing it. Goethe's observation that "there remains no doubt these days that world history has from time to time to be rewritten" encapsulates this keen awareness of the historicity of historical knowledge. 5 The discovery of the historicity of both society and knowledge, Koselleck suggests, is the defining feature of modernity. Our age, the age since the late eighteenth century, differs from all previous ages in its unrelenting historical reflections, in its constant critical self-positioning in historical time. This historical reflection and critical consciousness make our age the modern age. 6 Koselleck's powerful account of the emergence of the modern semantics of historical time around r 8oo naturally raises the question of how space might have been conceived during that period of profound semantic transformations and how the conception of space might be related to



what we call modernity. In fact, Koselleck himself occasionally addresses the question of space, albeit solely in relation to history. He stops short of inquiring into the semantics of space and its implications for our understanding of European modernity. 7 He seems to assume that from the eighteenth century onward, time asserted itself as the measure of social reality with such tremendous momentum that it simply subsumed space, so the latter remained under the threshold of consciousness and conceptualization: "The geographical opening up of the globe brought to light various but coexisting cultural levels which were, through the process of synchronous comparison, then ordered diachronically. " 8 This assumption, however, does not stand historical scrutiny. As a matter of fact, the discovery of historical time around I 8oo was accompanied by the discovery of geographic space, and the historicization of society and knowledge went hand in hand with what can be called the geographicization thereof. Indeed, one can speak of the emergence of a distinctively modern concept of geography alongside and in complementarity to the concept of history. This book provides an archaeology of geographic space and geographicization during the age commonly seen as characterized by the rise and absolute dominance of "historism." The human is a terrestrial being, and the earth is the abode of humankind. Given this plain fact, people cannot help asking questions about the habitable earth and their relationships to it. In their musings and inquiries, they come to form various geographic ideas-specific categories of thought meant to analyze, explain, and rationalize perceived spatial phenomena. "From the time of the Greeks to our own," according to Clarence Glacken, the author of a monumental history of Western geographic thought, there have been three main geographic ideas: "the idea of a designed earth; the idea of environmental influence; and the idea of man as a geographic agent." 9 Glacken's history, however, stops at the end of the eighteenth century, because "the thought of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries requires a different kind of treatment and properly should be a separate work." "I am convinced," he continues, "that in the time span from classical antiquity roughly to the end of the eighteenth century there was a coherent body of thought gathered about these ideas. Buffon, Kant, or Montesquieu, I think, would have found the classical world strange, but the gulf between their times and classical times would have been less than that between I8oo and I90o." 10 Apparently, an entirely new model of thinking about the earth and its relationship to its human inhabitants came into being around I 8oo, which resisted translation into the timehonored geographic ideas. Glacken provides no indication of the exact nature of this new model. I propose to characterize it in terms of the notion of the dynamic unity of man and the earth-a notion articulated, in



varying ways, by a wide range of thinkers from Herder and the early Romantic philosophers and poets to the founders of modern geographic science, Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Ritter. In contrast to the ideas of environmental influence and human agency, which both suggest causal determination, either of man by the earth or of the earth by man, the earth and human society were reconceived at the turn of the eighteenth into the nineteenth century as two complex systems of forces engaged in unceasing interaction and reciprocal determination, with each one of them acting on and reacting to the other as its environment. The outcome of this interaction at any particular juncture is then fed back into both systems so that effects simultaneously function as causes, and vice versa. At any given moment in time, the earth and the human world can be seen as equilibrating with one another and forming a dynamic unity. Displacing and invalidating past geographic ideas, the notion of a selfregulating interaction and interchange between man and the earth heralded the modern semantics of geographic space. This interaction creates an emergent reality that can be described either in terms of the humanization of the earth or the earthing of the human. It is a social reality undergirded by the spatial structures and processes of the earth or, in other words, a terrestrially embodied social reality. One can call it the geographic reality of society. As a social reality, it is marked by a peculiar kind of spatiality imbued with human purposiveness and action, and hence distinct from that of terrestrial nature untouched by human hands and unseen by human eyes. For example, the spatial principles underlying agriculture or a landscape garden are not the same as the spatial distribution and grouping of plants in wild nature. As a terrestrially embodied social reality, however, the geographic reality can never quite break free of the recalcitrance of the earth, so its spatiality is always determined to a certain degree by the conditions of terrestrial nature. The terrestrial dimension of the geographic reality of society manifests itself in regional differences. For instance, the spatial structure of agriculture in central Europe differs from that in tropical South America. For the sake of conceptual clarity, I shall refer to the spatiality of the geographic reality of society as "geographic" and that of terrestrial nature itself as "terrestrial." The discovery of the geographic reality of society, with its distinctive kind of spatiality, reveals the relation to the earth as a fundamental mode of being in the world, making it possible for society to imagine and describe itself in terms of specific spatial categories. With regard to the structure, form of appearance, and temporality of geographic reality, three aspects of the geographic imagination of society are especially worth pointing out. First, emerging from the interaction between human and terrestrial forces, geographic reality represents the dynamic oneness of man and



the earth, or the essential rootedness of the human in terrestrial nature. Man's recognition of this rootedness creates a unique structure of subjectivity, which one can call geographic subjectivity. Second, human culture is henceforth to be understood in terms of the concrete forms that geographic reality takes. As such, it is intrinsically spatialized, differing from region to region, from place to place. Such a notion of the spatial dispersion of human culture contrasts starkly with the claims of civilization, the world spirit, national heritage, class consciousness, and the like in grand historical narratives. Indeed, it necessitates a radical rethinking of history. Because the interaction between human and terrestrial forces not only takes place in space but also unfolds in time, the geographic reality emerging from it is always in the mode of becoming, with man and the earth reaching ever higher levels of interpenetration. As the form of appearance of geographic reality, culture, spatialized as it is, accordingly has also a temporal dimension. History, then-and this is the third key aspect of the geographic imagination of society-has to be reconceived as the temporal making of culture, both in the sense of its formation within a specific unit of terrestrial space and its diffusion across regional and continental boundaries. All of these aspects of the geographic imagination of society still remain with us today, albeit in variously mutated forms, contending with, even overshadowing, the historical paradigm of conceptualizing society and knowledge. Since historical consciousness has always been deemed the hallmark of modernity, the so-called postmodernism of the past quarter century has reclaimed geographic-spatial thinking as an antidote to the peremptory imperative of historicization. 11 Springing from the belief in the oneness of man and nature, the acute ecological awareness of our age can be read as an expression of geographic subjectivity. Having made a vital contribution to the making of cultural anthropology, 12 the geographic conception of culture and cultural difference is reformulated today in terms of "local knowledge," "location of culture," and so on. 13 The geographic conception of history finds its continuation and actualization in historical thinking from the geohistoire of the French Annales school to the contemporary global historical analysis that, in studying cross-cultural trade, biological diffusions and exchanges, cultural encounters and interactions, imperialism and colonialism, migrations and diasporas, has brought to light the geographic frameworks for large historical processes. 14 This spatial imagination functions, in turn, as a decisive factor in the shaping of social reality, as evidenced by environmental politics, geopolitics, and the politics of cultural difference in today's world society, to name just a few salient examples. A leading geographer of our time insists on the status of "space" as a keyword in the social-politicallanguage/ 5 while an eminent



colleague of his proclaims a "geographic turn" of knowledge. 16 Indeed, some perceptive observers of the contemporary intellectual situation have diagnosed a "renaissance" of the concept of space: "it can neither be denied nor overlooked [that] space has returned and is undergoing an unexpected . . . even frightening renaissance." 17 In awareness of the reassertion of space in contemporary social and cultural thought, this book undertakes to uncover the beginnings of the geographic imagination. Its overarching goal is to document, in different dimensions and on different levels, the operation as well as the cooperation of a variety of discourses around 18oo that helped constitute the geographic paradigm of thinking society and culture. It provides, as· it were, an archaeology of geographic space and spatialization. The concept of space plays a role in exceedingly diverse fields of knowledge, ranging from mathematics and physics to the social sciences and aesthetics. 18 It should be emphasized that this book is concerned with geographic space. Other notions of space and spatiality are examined only insofar as they bear on geographic space. As an archaeology of geographic space and spatializa" tion, this book does not harbor the ambition of developing a new theory of space and refrains, as far as possible, from tackling the thorny philosophical problems of space and its relationship to time.

Three Axes of Inquiry: History of Science, Historical Semantics, Literary Analysis Just as the historicization of society culminated in the establishment of historical studies as a science in the early nineteenth century, the geographic imagination of society crystallized in modern geographic science, the disciplinary matrix of which took shape at exactly the same time as that of professional historical studies. This book revolves, first of all, around the emergence of modern geographic science, tracing its origins to three main factors: the internal dynamic of the transformation of geographic knowledge, the poetics and aesthetics of nature, and Herder's as well as Romantic philosophers' challenges to the Kantian-Fichtean critical philosophy. True as it is that modern geographic consciousness found its paradigmatic expression in modern geographic science, it can be as little confined within the disciplinary boundary of this science as historical consciousness can be within professional historical studies. In fact, the geographic imagining of human society was carried out in a wide and complex discursive field, encompassing not only science but also philosophy and literature, not only verbal but also visual representations, such as maps and paint-



ings. 19 The second axis of this book is the making of the modern semantics of geographic space through the cooperation and interplay of a variety of discourses and forms of representation, with a focus on Romantic philosophy and poetry as well as geographic science. In reconstructing the emergence of geographic science and the modern semantics of geographic space, this book puts the literary and philosophical discourses of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries into a new perspective. It is thus also a study in literature and philosophy, offering new interpretations of a number of key poets and thinkers of the period.

The Emergence of Modern Geographic Science Historians of geographic knowledge are wont to emphasize its antiquity: "Geography is as old as man's first search for a bit of soil to dig for plantings, for a path that leads to water, for a trail to a place where hard rock for arrowheads may be found. " 20 Indeed, societies, whether ancient or modern, whether primitive or civilized, all have their geographic lore. In the European tradition, from Strabo on, and especially since Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia (1544), geography staked out a domain of objects so vast as to encompass virtually everything remarkable under the sun: the four elements, the products of the three kingdoms of nature, spatial forms such as the shape of mountains and the flow of rivers, forms of human association such as the state and ethnic community, manifestations of human ingenuity, customs, and ways of life. In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this heterogeneous domain of objects increasingly came to be topically described, eventually divided into three main categories: the earth as an astronomical body, physical objects and phenomena on the earth's surface, and facts about humans. In the decades around r8oo, a profound epistemic transmutation brought about the demise of topical description, inaugurating an entirely new paradigm of geographic studies. Laying claim to the status of a modern science, this new paradigm distinguished itself from previous geographic studies by its preference for "the connection of facts, which have been observed, to the knowledge of insulated facts," 21 or in the words of a historian of geography, by "a major shift ... away from description and toward explanation." 22 The explanatory impulse propelled the investigation of physical structures and processes of the earth on the basis of instrument-aided empirical observation, quantification, and other methods of empirical research and analysis. 23 This impulse was no less powerful when it came to human phenomena. However, in its attempt to explain structures and processes in human society, modern geography ran into a dilemma: in order to become



a science, it needed a theory of the relation between terrestrial nature and the human sphere; yet theory militated against empirical study of the particularities of the human sphere. For instance, in asserting a direct causal relation between physical conditions and the mental as well as social constitution of humans, the age-old climatic theory, most recently elaborated by Montesquieu in his Spirit of Laws (I748), rendered any serious study of human phenomena in relation to the earth nugatory. Why would one bother studying anything if its cause has already been specified? Modern geography resolved this dilemma by conceiving of phenomena in the human world not as causally determined by physical conditions but as the result of the interaction and reciprocal determination between terrestrial nature and human forces. In other words, it replaced the causal model of the relationship between nature and man as postulated by the climatic theory with, broadly speaking, an ecological model that envisioned the two as complex systems in constant interaction with each other. There are no point-to-point correspondences between individual elements in these two systems. Rather, every phenomenon in one system must be explained in terms of the interaction between this system and the other system as a whole. Geographic studies true to this model turned out to be ultimately a science that centered on the interrelation between man and the earth, explaining all human phenomena as manifestations of an emergent reality arising from the human interaction with a terrestrial nature that was, in itself, explicable in terms of natural science. The first part of the book examines the emergence of modern geographic science, underscoring three of its preconditions: the reorganization of geographic knowledge, the configuring of its basic unit of analysis through landscape aesthetics, and the philosophical reconceptualization of the relation between man and nature by the challengers to the critical philosophy. Based on a comprehensive assessment of geographic literature from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century, Chapter I charts the complex and multidimensional reorganization of geographic knowledge around I 8oo, which underlay the rise of modern geography. In the wake of Rousseau's pedagogical revolution, topical classification and memorization of factual knowledge about the earth and its inhabitants were abandoned in favor of the methodical construction of geographic knowledge on the basis of the knowing subject's own spatial experience. While the gaze of reason was being supplanted by the lens of subjective experience, the domain of objects of geographic knowledge-the earth-began to be seen as a cultural space made and inhabited by humans. This simultaneous redefinition of both the modality and the object of knowing led to the modern conception of geography as man's study of his own relation to the earth. Scale was as crucial to geographic science as the concept of period was



to historical science. Drawing on specialized studies of all the operative factors of the earth-system, modern geography focused on individual units of terrestrial space-generally referred to as "landscapes" or "regions"-as its objects of analysis, in the conviction that their functioning revealed the nature of the earth as a whole. This idiographic approach implied that all phenomena, both natural and human, were to be seen as local in character. Yet the individual holistic spatial unit is not something naturally given but a symbolic construct created by the knowing subject. Chapter 2 traces the origin of the notions of landscape and region so vital to modern geographic science to the late eighteenth-century landscape aesthetics that originated with the young Goethe and culminated in Romanticism. 24 It makes the argument that the transition from the descriptive and moralizing landscape in the early eighteenth century to the highly subjective landscape of mood (Stimmungslandschaft) and allegorical landscape in Romanticism prefigured, indeed enabled, the transition from descriptive geography to modern geographic science. In winning its object of analysis from landscape aesthetics, modern geographic science transformed the aesthetic subject of landscape into a geographic subject imagining his identity in relation to a particular region of the earth. Modern geographic science operated with a dynamic model of nature such that the earth no longer appeared as a static array of discrete objects and phenomena to be described but as a vast system of interacting and interweaving forces. Humans were regarded as contained within this productive nature, and their actions as particular kinds offorces interacting with countless other natural forces. This notion of the dynamic unity of nature and man, however, was accompanied by the belief in the special status of man, that is, the belief that man was not only part of nature but also stood above it in his ability to reflect on his relation to nature. Chapter 3 examines the genesis of this geographic model of the relation between nature and man from a primarily philosophical perspective, tracing it back to Herder's and Schelling's challenges to the Kantian-Fichtean critical philosophy. In contrast to the overarching insistence of the critical philosophy on the reign of the spontaneous, unearthly reason over nature, Herder and Schelling sought to root human reason in a productive nature, obviating the divide between man and nature, subject and object. Reinterpreting Spinoza's notion of natura naturans in light of the explanation of nature in terms of vital forces in contemporary life sciences, they envisioned, in different ways, an all-encompassing, self-organizing nature. 25 Man emerged from nature as its highest level of organization, characterized by the capacity for self-consciousness and reflection. This capacity enabled him to objectify nature and interact with it in specific ways. Such a conception of nature and man's relation to it prepared the ground for modern geography.



The Semantics of Geographic Space The second part of the book turns to what this discursive event, the emergence of geographic science, made possible, examining systematically some key spatial categories of the modern geographic imagination. Yet not only geographic science itself but other discourses as well, notably literature and philosophy, were involved in formulating these spatial categories. The geographic imagining of society, as suggested previously, implies the understanding of society as an emergent reality produced by the interaction and interchange between humans and their terrestrial environment, that is, as a geographic reality. This reality is marked by a spatial structure distinct from that of terrestrial nature itself-a spatial structure that I characterize as geographic spatiality. One can distinguish between two principal modes of interaction between man and the earth: orientation and inhabitation. The former concerns man's determination of directions in space, whereas the latter concerns man's engagement with objects, structures, and processes in space. Accordingly, there are two kinds of geographic space to be noted: oriented space and inhabited space. The human inhabitation of the earth, however, both takes place in space and unfolds in time, leaving its traces-to quote Friedrich Holderlin, whose poetry will be invoked frequently in this book to bear witness to the modern semantics of geographic space-in "boundaries of space" (des Raumes Grenzen), on the one hand, and in "figures of time" (Gestalten der Zeit), on the other. 26 The spatial dimension of inhabitation manifests itself in the cultural landscape, whereas its temporal dimension manifests itself in geohistory, the history of the interaction between man and the earth. The last three chapters of the book deal, respectively, with the discursive figurations of oriented space, cultural landscape, and geohistory. Chapter 4 examines the figur~tion of oriented space in cartography, philosophy, and poetry around r8oo. Defined by Kant as "the feeling of a difference in my own subject, namely, the difference between my right and left hands," 27 spatial orientation means the determination of direction based on a subjective, bodily experience of difference. Oriented space is a space with which an individual is bodily at one, a space in which one feels at home. This is the wonted space of daily activities. Cartography around r8oo, as my analysis of the theories of cartographic representation and the pedagogic discourse of cartographic literacy from Rousseau onward demonstrates, sought to help the individual orient himself in unwonted spaces, that is, to make the vast territory of his country, indeed the entire world, into an oriented space by imparting to him a specific kind of spatial judgment called the Augenma(5, the visual sense (literally, the "measure of the eye"). The early Romantic philosophy pursued the



same goal of making the world as oriented as the home. As Novalis put it, "Philosophy is actually homesickness-the drive to be at home everywhere."28 This goal of universal orientation, according to Novalis, could be ultimately reached in Romantic poetry, a symbolic praxis imbued with the extraordinary capability of "making nonpresence into presence." 29 In their concerted effort to transmute the world into a universally oriented space, the Romantic discourses of cartography, philosophy, and poetry developed a unique vision of the social body. Since orientation consists in the subjective feeling of bodily oneness with space, in a universally oriented world every individual is bodily at one with the whole and all individuals merge into one body. Along with the issue of orientation, the human inhabitation of the earth became an epistemic concern around r8oo in a variety of discourses and forms of representation, including science, philosophy,. poetry, and painting. Chapter 5 focuses on Humboldt's scientific and Holderlin's poetic discourse of the human inhabitation of the earth, charting the ways in which they make visible the cultural landscape as the spatial manifestation of the interplay between cultivating efforts of humans and the structures and processes of terrestrial nature. Brief analyses of Humboldt's cartography and Joseph Anton Koch's painting further illuminate the discursive logic of the cultural landscape. For all their differences in approach and language, the scientific, poetic, and visual representations of the cultural landscape imply the same conception of society and culture as embodied in space. The understanding of human existence in terms of its relationship to the earth calls for a new conception of history. From this standpoint, history cannot be a matter of the infinite progress of humankind toward an ideal conforming to the normative demands of reason, as postulated by the Enlightenment. Nor can it be a matter of the continuous development of singular forms of life toward national self-realization, as supposed by nineteenth-century historism. Rather, history must be seen as the formation and development of culture through incessant human interaction with the earth. Chapter 6 documents a remarkable convergence of geography and history, an inextricable intertwinement of geographic space and historical time during the period that, as indicated at the beginning, has usually been seen as characterized by the absolute dominance of the historical paradigm. Indeed, one can speak of the emergence of geohistory around r 8oo. Taking into account the philosophy of history, geographic science, and poetry, this chapter argues that it was precisely the theoretical precurc sors of historism from Herder to Friedrich Schlegel and Wilhelm von Humboldt who laid the foundation of geohistorical thinking. In reaction to the Enlightenment notion of the infinite approximation toward the norms of



reason, these historical thinkers maintained that every age was shaped by a singular constellation of forces, including both human forces and natural forces. Hence, each age was intrinsically and irreducibly individual, with historical development consisting in the waxing and waning of forces, as well as their continuous reconfiguration in the course of time. In the early nineteenth century, this line of historical thinking bifurcated in two distinct directions: while professional historians belonging to the school of historism concentrated on human, especially political, forces in the fashioning of historical reality, geographers and their kindred spirits-most notably the poet Holderlin-emphasized the vital contribution of natural forces to the making of every individual cultural form. As a consequence, these thinkers elaborated a conception of history as the origination and diffusion of culture in terrestrial space. In uncovering such a geographic conception of history, Chapter 6 paints a radically new picture of modern historical thought, contending that historism and geohistorical thinking represented its two complementary strands.

The Poetics of Knowledge By tracing the emergence of geographic science and the modern semantics of geographic space, this book places the philosophical and literary discourses of Romanticism into a hitherto unheeded context, making new interpretations of them possible. In studying Kant's critical philosophy and pondering Fichte's radicalization of it, the generation that in German intellectual history is generally designated as the early Romantics (Friihromantiker), including particularly Holderlin, Navalis, Schelling, and Friedrich Schlegel, came to realize that the Kantian distinction between the subjective and the objective could itself neither be a subjective nor an objective distinction, that Fichte's attempt to ground this distinction in an absolute "I" would result in an inescapable circle of reflection, and that therefore there had to be a deeper, prereflexive unity underlying it. Waging a sustained "struggle against subjectivism," they probed various possibilities of elucidating this prereflexive unity that they termed "being," or "absolute being," or "primeval being" (Ur-sein). 30 In so doing, they contributed, knowingly or unknowingly, to the making of the modern geographic imagination that was predicated on the premise of the fundamental unity of man and nature. This book examines the different ways in which the main philosophical strategies of early Romanticism in making sense of absolute being translated into the geographic explication of the unity of man and the earth, demonstrating how Schelling's Naturphilosophie served as a source of inspiration for Humboldt and Ritter in conceiving geographic science (Chapter 3 ), how



Navalis's studies of Fichte led to a philosophy and poetics of orientation (Chapter 4), how Holderlin's philosophy of being developed in reaction to Fichte prepared the ground for the poetic figuration of culturallal)dscape (Chapter 5), and how Schlegel's transcendental philosophy implied a notion of geohistory (Chapter 6). It should be noted that the relation between Romantic philosophy and geography was by no means a causal one. In all of these cases, this book suggests neither that Romantic philosophy was reducible to geographic thinking nor that geography owed its emergence entirely to Romantic philosophy. But it does suggest that the rise of the modern geographic imagination presupposed varying degrees of latency in the philosophical speculation of Romantic thinkers. Posited as absolute, being eludes rational knowledge, as every act of knowing necessarily turns it into an object, compromising its absoluteness. The early Romantics tended to credit poetry with the capacity for disclosing absolute being or the unity of man and nature. As such, poetry figured as the privileged discursive site where the geographic imaginary of the primordial relatedness of man and nature was configured. Navalis ascribed to poetry the function of transfiguring the world into a universally oriented space, a space in which all distinctions-:-between directions and between individual subjects-are collapsed (Chapter 4). For Holderlin, poetry reveals absolute being by addressing itself to the spatial manifestation of the interaction between man and nature as cultural landscape, on the one hand, and to its temporal manifestation as geohistory, on the other (Chapters 5 and 6). In contrast to the representation of cultural landscape or geohistory in geographic science, which, in asserting the cognitive authority of scientific reason, reintroduces the division between subject and object on a higher level, in Holderlin's poetry representation is always fed back into the represented so that poetic speech becomes a dimension of cultural landscape or geohistory. Continually reinscribing itself into that which it represents, poetic speech enables the represented to represent itself, thereby disclosing the absolute oneness of subject and object, man and nature. Reading Navalis and Holderlin against the background of geographic thinking thus brings to light otherwise hidden dimensions of their conceptions of poetry. In the case of Navalis and Holderlin, poetry represented a discursive site where specific categories of the geographic imagination-orientation, cultural landscape, and geohistory-were formulated. In this capacity, it was on a par with geographic science, intersecting and cooperating with it, as well as with other discourses and forms of representation such as cartography and painting. But poetry, or more broadly, literature and aesthetics, comes into view also in another capacity in this book, namely, as a moment in the prehistory of modern geography. For instance, as Chapter 2


demonstrates, landscape poetry and landscape aesthetics played a crucial role in the emergence of geographic science. Thus, they were not on a par with geographic science but represented, as it were, a deeper archaeological layer. They are subjected to scrutiny here because together with other discourses they helped constitute a science in which the geographic imagination crystallized. These two different roles or functions of poetry indicate that the discourses involved in the making of the geographic imagination cooperated on different levels, at times overlapping with each other, at times enabling and enabled by each other. This book is a study of this multileveled and multifaceted cooperation, approaching it from a variety of angles, and in so doing seeking to shed new light on the individual discourses and forms of representation participating in it. As such, it is an exercise in "the poetics of knowledge" in the sense of a study of the set of discursive procedures and representational techniques by which a field of knowledge is constructed.Jl

The Geographic Imagination and the Spatial Order of the World In the light of the geographic imagination as reconstructed in this book, it is possible to speak of the spatialization of the human world at the turn of the eighteenth into the nineteenth century. This finding neither invalidates nor challenges the argument advanced by Koselleck and embraced by many others that the profound semantic transformations and innovations that took place during this period shared the general tendency toward the temporalization of the world and society. But it does suggest that this temporalization did not entail the abnegation of space but was accompanied and buttressed by the rise of a new semantics of space. A spatial order underlies every society. As Carl Schmitt laconically put it, "Every basic order is a spatial order.... The true, proper basic order rests, in its essential core, on certain spatial boundaries and delimitations, on certain measures and a certain apportionment of the earth." 32 From the sixteenth to the end of nineteenth century, Schmitt pointed out, the world as a whole was predicated upon the jus publicum Europaeum, a Europe-centered spatial order with two prominent features: the distinction between Europe and the rest of the world, which Europeans regarded as a vast free space up for grabs; and the division of the soil of Europe into sovereign territorial states governed by the international law, or jus gentium. How was the geographic imagination that crystallized around r 8oo related to this Europe-centered spatial order of the world? Two considerations are crucial to answering this question. First, the geographic imagination was


essentially a European imagination, asserting discursive authority over the earth in parallel to the asymmetrical power relations between Europe and the rest of the planet. Second, the geographic imagination was intertwined with a restructuring of the spatial order of the European continent around I8oo, when the idea of nation was joined with that of territorial sovereignty to bring into being the modern nation-state. The spatial differentiation of humanity into Europe and the vast nonEuropean world resulted from the momentous spatial revolution generally known as the European discovery of the world. Ever since Columbus set foot on the soil of the New World, European peoples swarmed out into the wide expanses of the earth, taking possession of whatever lands and peoples they happened to discover. Initially, they invoked their mission of bringing the light of the Christian faith to infidels. Later, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the proselytizing mission turned into a civilizing mission. "It is no exaggeration," as Carl Schmitt argued, "to claim that all spheres of life, all forms of existence, all kinds of the human creative power, art, science, and technology had their share in the new concept of space" that underlay this asymmetrical spatial differentiation of humanity. 33 Geographic thought around I8oo was in a certain sense an afterthought, proffering, as it were, a retrospective explanation of a fait accompli. Riihle von Lilienstern, a Saxon officer who excogitated an idiosyncratic map of the world in the opening years of the nineteenth century, proposed dividing the world between Europe and non-Europe, the latter of which he summarily designated "India," on the grounds that Europe exercised "a direct rule ... over a great part of the non-European earth" and that it enjoyed an "extraordinary advance in, indeed almost the exclusive possession of, scientific and commercial culture." The differentiation between a ruling Europe and the rest of the world subject to European rule was for him an obvious fact. Lacking only was a reasoned explanation for this circumstance, since "mere coincidence cannot be the cause, or the human spirit at least should not content itself with such a way of explaining without the strictest investigation." 34 Riihle von Lilienstern's explanation was mainly a geographic one: Europe ... is in a variety of ways privileged over all the other areas outside Europe. Located in the middle of the temperate zone that produces the most diverse and the most advantageous climate, it is surrounded by the sea on three sides, traversed by numerous rivers and lakes and mountains, and almost entirely free of those enormous expanses of inhabitable land to be found on other continents, especially in Asia and Africa. On the whole earth there is nowhere a region of the same size that is so fortunately located and constituted. 35

With a greater theoretical pretense, Carl Ritter made the same argument. Different continents have brought forth different cultures because of their



individual geographic conditions. Europe, however, is blessed with a "singular, incontrovertibly favorable distribution of spaces and forms," 36 which, bolstered by other spatial advantages such as the temperate climate and a manageable size, provides the most propitious conditions for sustained cultural development. At the same time, it has such a spatial structure and shape and stands in such a spatial relation to other continents that it is best positioned to conquer the oceans and spread its culture all over the globe. Due to the "cosmic grouping and global positioning of the continents, ... Europe, the smallest of all continents, was predestined to reign over the largest ones." 37 The long-term consequence of the European reign over other continents is obvious: the local culture of Europe engulfs the planet so that "the tropical world as well as the polar circle and the antipodes of the Old World-the New World-are Europeanized. " 38 Nowhere is the power structure informing the geographic discourse more starkly revealed perhaps than in such analyses of the shape, structure, and position of Europe in comparison to other continents. Geography, as a historian aptly puts it, was a "European science." Equipped with "a set of attitudes, methods, techniques and questions," all of which were "developed in Europe toward the end of the eighteenth century," this in the strict sense "regional" science furnished a universal explanation of the earth and its inhabitants. From its vantage, "all other geographic traditions are necessarily derivative and indeed imitative of it. " 39 The social-political domination of the earth by Europe was inscribed in the geographic science and translated into a discursive authority over the earth. The discursive authority of geography, in turn, justified and consolidated Europe's socialpolitical authority. In enforcing its authority over the earth, Europe formed a "family of nations" governed by international law. According to Carl Schmitt, The appearance of vast free spaces and the land appropriation of a new world made possible a new European international law among states: an interstate structure .... Given the fact that independent powers, with unified central governments and administrations, and well-defined borders had risen on European soil, the appropriate agencies of a new jus gentium were in place. The concrete spatial order of these territorial states gave European soil a specific status in international law, not only within Europe but in relation to both the free space of the open sea and to all non-European soil overseas. 40

Elaborating on the distinction between "Europe" and "India," Riihle von Lilienstern established that the former exercised its power over the latter through the competition of its territorial states. The chapter "Europe in Opposition to India" is therefore followed by the chapter "England in Opposition to the Continent," 41 which analyzes the power balance of the territorial states of the European continent in relation to the British mari-



time empire. A participant in the battle at Jena-Auerstedt in r8o6, 42 Ruhle von Lilienstern could even boast of a personal experience of the dynamic "interaction of opposed forces," which constantly destabilized and restabilized this balance. 43 The spatial order of the territorial state on the soil of Europe became firmly established in the wake of the religious wars in the seventeenth century. The Peace of Westphalia (1648), which settled relentless bloody conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, linked sovereignty to territory, stipulating that states hold exclusive power within their territories, and thereby delegitimizing other forms of polity lacking a uniform central government and clearly defined territorial boundaries. This concept of territorial sovereignty entailed a notion of foreign relations as the relations among territorial actors. War, arguably the most important of foreign relations, henceforth took the form of a confrontation between equivalent spatial units acting as personae publicae in accordance with international law. In the years around r8oo, partly as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars, which unapologetically violated and then radically reconfigured territorial borders in Europe, the idea of the territorial state underwent a subtle yet profound transformation. The concept of nation became allied with the concept of territorial sovereignty, turning the early-modern territorial state of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into the modern nation-state of the nineteenth and twentieth. Upholding, as it did, the territorial principle to the point of sanctification, the nation-state rested on a semantics of space that differed significantly from the one implicit in the early-modern territorial state. The territorial state operated with the help of descriptive geography, which offered a wealth of factual information about the size, surface form, and boundary of the territorial space; about natural products as well as conditions of earth, water, and air; and about the size, distribution, and living conditions of the population. This multifarious factual information was all instrumental to the government of the territorial state, both with regard to its foreign politics aimed at maintaining the balance of European powers by means of diplomatic negotiations and military campaigns, and with regard to its domestic politics primarily concerned with enhancing the well-being of the population by means of the police (Polizei), that is, the technique of managing territorial space and the human life sustained by it. 44 The nation-state, however, was not merely interested in claiming sovereignty over a quantifiable territorial space and utilizing this space optimally for the sake of the weal of the population. It also endowed the territory with a symbolic quality that it took to be the source of the cultural and spiritual identity of the nation. The territory ceased to be merely a physical space, but assumed in addition the status of a primeval ground that brought forth and nurtured national culture and history. This notion



that culture and history were rooted in and grew out of a delimited terrestrial space was only possible within the modern geographic imagination. The transition from the early-modern territorial state to the nation-state, therefore, was closely bound up with the transformation of descriptive geography into modern geography around r8oo. In the nation-state consolidated over the course of the nineteenth century, the territorial space figured as a unique empirical-transcendental double. On the one hand, it remained a measurable terrestrial space that needed to be protected and, when necessary, expanded within the framework of the European jus gentium, and that needed to be developed, according to specific plans, as the basis and environment of the biological existence of the population. 45 On the other hand, it came to be seen as the indivisible, sacrosanct space that represented the condition of possibility of national unity and identity. This political semantics of space determined the double role of geographic studies, which the nation-state vigorously fostered and helped develop into a fully fledged scientific discipline: 46 geography performed the function of an epistemic apparatus of collecting, transmitting, and processing spatial data in the service of the state; at the same time, as a theoretical discourse, geography provided the nation with an imaginary identity by interpreting national culture and history as the result of the people's engagement with the singular conditions, structures, and processes of their terrestrial habitatY A detailed exposition of the relationship between the nation-state and modern geography would go beyond the scope of this book. The Epilogue offers a cursory review of the concomitant rise of the nation-state and modern geography around r 8oo, and it sketches out, in broad outlines, the ways in which the geographic imagination seeped into political thinking in the course of the nineteenth century, thereby generating a distinct geopolitical imagination. In its attempt to bring to light the legacy of the geographic imagination in the nineteenth century, the Epilogue presents yet another finding: the geographic imagination semanticized terrestrial space outside Europe-the space that European powers viewed as unmarked and available for their occupation-as an array of spatially delimited ethnic cultures. In its overarching concern with the origination of culture from the human interaction with terrestrial nature, modern geography provided an important impetus to the rise of ethnology, a discourse that argued for the intrinsic value of indigenous cultures, and in so doing called into question the view of the earth as merely the free playground of European powers. The geographic imagination thus entertained a manifold, ambiguous relationship to the Europe-centered spatial order of the world. Its discursive authority over the earth mirrored the European domination of the world, Its entanglement in the political semantics of the nation-state helped trans-



form the spatial order of the European continent. And, finally, its role in the making of the ethnological understanding of the earth, particularly the non-European earth, in terms of regional cultures distinct from each other yet equal in value, challenged the jus publicum Europaeum, that spatial order of the world that came to be established in the age of discovery and held its own until the end of the nineteenth century. The geographic imagination was a double-edged sword.


The Reorganization of

Geographic Knowledge around I8oo

During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, with the publication of Alexander von Humboldt's monumental Voyage to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent (Voyage aux regions equinoxiales du Nouveau Continent) close to completion, 1 and with the publication of Carl Ritter's equally monumental The Earth Science in Relation to Nature and to the History of Man (Die Erdkunde im Verhaltni/5 zur Natur und zur Geschichte des Menschen) well under way, 2 geography entered a new age. In the history of geography, the decades between 1799, the year in which Humboldt embarked on his expedition to the new continent, and 1859, the year in which both Humboldt and Ritter passed away, are usually designated as the classical period of geography. 3 These two men, each in his way and with at times sharply differing emphases, redefined the subject, developed a new methodology, and produced a number of exemplary problem solutions that were to serve as models for later geographers. Taken together, their works established the classical paradigm of geographic science.4 Primarily concerned with the interrelation between nature and man, with issues such as human-environmental relations, regionalism, and landscape featuring prominently among its topics, this paradigm held its own until the second half of the twentieth century, when its fundamentals came under siege and it was gradually displaced. 5 Humboldt and Ritter were to geography as Newton was to physics. The science of geography founded by Humboldt and Ritter was characterized, first of all, by a vigorous empirical spirit and quantifying drive in the study of terrestrial nature. With its passionate commitment to discovering the laws governing terrestrial nature by means of empirical observation and causal explanation, it staked out a strong claim to joining the league of modern natural sciences. Yet geography was not merely a


natural science. It was just as concerned with human inhabitants of the earth as with the earth itself. In fact, its investigation of the structures and processes of terrestrial nature ultimately served the purpose of making sense of the human world. It was thus as much a human science as a natural science, born at exactly the historical juncture when the scientific study of the human became an urgent epistemic problem. 6 Bestriding the divide between natural and human sciences, the science of geography revolved around the interrelation between the earth and man, aiming to understand mental disposition, culture, history, indeed, all aspects of the human world by explaining the spatial structures and operations of natural forces, which combine to constitute the dwelling place of humankind-the earth. 7 This chapter examines the reorganization of geographic knowledge around 18oo, which gave rise to the classical paradigm of geographic science. Up to the turn of the nineteenth century, geography, as its name suggests, was nothing less and nothing more than a description of the earth, topically divided into the description of the earth as an astronomical body, description of the physical objects and phenomena on the earth's surfq.ce, and description of the human inhabitants of the earth. In this descriptive, classificatory mode, geography presented the earth as a static array of discrete objects and phenomena independent of the knowing subject. Although it often apostrophized the earth as the abode of humankind, it was incapable of conceiving the intrinsic relationship between terrestrial nature and human life, juxtaposing instead isolated descriptions of natural objects and phenomena with descriptions of objects and phenomena in the human world. In the late eighteenth century, descriptive geography evinced numerous signs of crisis. Rousseau and Herder, both deeply interested in geography as a subject of study, in different ways illuminated the vital connections between man and the earth, thereby laying the ground for a fundamental reorientation of geography. Rousseau argued that the subject's experience of his immediate surroundings lay at the root of geographic knowledge. Herder conceived of the human relation to the earth less in individual than in social terms, maintaining that the social bonding of humans was inseparable from their interaction with terrestrial nature. These two lines of thinking converged at the turn of the nineteenth century in the conviction that man's relation to the earth represents a fundamental mode of his being in the world. Guided by this conviction, and drawing on Humboldt's innovative empirical studies, Ritter jettisoned the epistemic trappings of descriptive geography (Erdbeschreibung) and ushered in a new science that occupied itself with investigating the earth in its relation to man (Erdkunde).



Space, Representation, Space of Representation: Geography in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries Geographic knowledge on the eve of the age of Humboldt and Ritter had two defining features: topical organization and empirical underpinning. The topical model of organizing geographic knowledge was established in the early seventeenth century. In the course of the eighteenth century, it came to be tied to an empiricist epistemology. Increasingly, however, a tension developed between the topical system and the commitment to experience. In the years around r8oo, the need to accommodate exponentially growing empirical data finally caused the collapse of the topical model. GEOGRAPHY AS A TOPICAL SCIENCE

The contour of geography as a topical science can be glimpsed in representative seventeenth- and eighteenth-century encyclopedias, the repositories of knowledge in early-modern Europe. In Johann Heinrich Alsted's Encyclopcedia Septem Tomis Distincta (r63o), "the last completed project that represented knowledge entirely in the topical order,'' 8 every item of knowledge has its exact place in a spatially organized system. Geography, considered a main part of cosmography that consists of descriptions of both heaven and earth, falls under the category of theoretical philosophy. Like every other of the thirty-five branches of knowledge outlined first in tabular form and then meticulously described in the encyclopedia, geographic knowledge as a whole is also spatially organized on the basis of the distinction between general and special geography. 9 The precursor of today's distinction between systematic and regional geography, this distinction first introduced by Bartholomaus Keckermann in Systema Geographicum (r6u) enjoyed great popularity among seventeenth-century geographers, best known through Bernhard Varenius's Geographia Generalis (r6so), although its use varied significantly from geographer to geographer. 1 For Alsted, general geography deals with the astronomical features of the earth, especially questions of longitude and latitude formulated in mathematical terms, whereas special geography consists of "historical descriptions." The term "historical descriptions" here refers to historia, meaning empirical knowledge of facts, or cognitio singularium, which is acquired through the senses, as opposed to rational or dogmatic knowledge of the higher sciences (such as mathematics), philosophy, and theology. This special or historical division of geography is further divided into two parts: natural and political geography. Natural geography provides information about mountains, rivers, lakes, and seas, as well as other physical objects and



phenomena; political geography enumerates countries, provinces, regions, and the like.U Taken together, then, geographic knowledge consists of three parts: mathematical, natural, and political geography. A century later, Zedler's Grosses vollstandiges Lexicon alter Wissenschaften und Kunste (1732-50), the most comprehensive survey of knowledge in the early Enlightenment, featured exactly the same triptych of geographic knowledge as Alsted's encyclopedia. But Zedler's systematic classification was enriched with two additional criteria of classification. In terms of time, he drew a distinction between an ancient, a medieval, and a new geography. In terms of scale, there was a distinction between geography (description of the entire earth), chorography (description of a region), and topography (description of a place). 12 These triple classification schemes dominated the subject of geography during the whole of the eighteenth century, providing a prefabricated structure, sometimes with minor changes in terminology, for schoolbooks, popular handbooks, academic compendia, and all other kinds of geographic publications. Natural geography was sometimes also called physical geography, and political geography might appear under the name of civil or human geography. Occasionally, a special category of ecclesiastical geography was added to the systematic triptych of mathematical, natural, and political geography. Natural and political geography, both dealing with empirical knowledge of the earth, process rather different information yet proceed according to the same principle-the principle of enumeration and classification. The former lists various spatial forms and takes stock of products from the three kingdoms of nature, whereas the latter classifies states and churches, as well as different units of states and churches. New information acquired through expanded travel and other means of communication was prepared in such a way as to conform to one or the other of these rubrics. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, geography epitomized what Foucault termed the "classical episteme," a regime of knowledge guided by the principle of classification. Topical categories offered a framework for organizing knowledge but no criterion for authenticating knowledge. In its pursuit of a universal representation of the world, geography often amalgamated empirical information with fantastic fables and trivial gossip. For example, a gargantuan tome entitled Mundus Mirabilis Tripartitus oder Wunderbare Welt, reprinted a couple of times around 1700, reports that there is a certain Lake Yo in the province of Peking, "the water of which turns as red as blood when someone throws a stone into it. In addition, it is reputed to have such a strange quality that as soon as leaves of the nearby trees are thrown into it, they change into swallows immediately and fly away." 13 As a measure of just how trivial geographic knowledge could become, a book on European geography published in 1709 has the following stories



to report about Portugal: "In Coimbra there is a very big oven, in which a large bread is baked every year." And "the Portuguese women have the reputation of being the most beautiful in Europe. " 14 Given this kind of whimsicality, it is no wonder that laments over the miserable state of geography grew loud in the early eighteenth century. In his Niitzlicher Discours von dem gegenwartigen Zustand der Geographie (1727), Eberhard David Hauber complained that his time had no single reasonable system of geographic knowledge to boast of, "as what Munster, Belleforest, Knittel, Rau, Happel, and some others have written is partly too old, partly too fabulous, partly too simple-minded and disorderly. " 15 As a remedy, he proposed that geographers should, among other things, organize their material systematically, pay attention to the new discoveries of travelers, build up a good collection of geographic books and maps, and institute a geographic society. However, none of his good advice seemed to have found much resonance. Ten years after the publication of the Niitzlicher Discours, the same publisher brought out two weighty tomes in which the author, in all seriousness, listed more than ten kinds of "strange rain," from rain of blood and rain of silver, gold, and coins to rain of snakes, worms, fish, and even a rain of Bohemian diamonds. 16 EXPERIENCE AND REASON: GEOGRAPHIC KNOWLEDGE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

A substantial improvement in geography did not come about until around 1750. Calls for reform by geographers such as Johann Michael Franz, who, just like Hauber twenty years before, pointed out the importance of systematizing geographic material as well as the necessity of institutional support, certainly played a role in the amelioration of the situationP The most powerful impetus for the development of geography, however, sprang from a number of other fields, in particular, natural history, statistics, and the inchoate field of ethnography. In all of these fields, the commitment to empirical research joined hands with a firm belief in rational, systematic ordering of empirical data to ensure a reliable representation of the earth. Carl von Linne, the greatest naturalist of his time, demanded that all human knowledge be built on the twin pillars of "reason and experience."18 Experience gathered facts from all over the globe, in his view, and reason revealed the perfect order governing these facts. This maxim of natural history applied equally to statistics and ethnqgraphy. Taken together, these three fields furnished a sound empirical underpinning and a rational structure for both natural geography and for political geography. Natural history, as Buffon put it, aimed to provide "an accurate examination and description of the surface of the earth, and of such inconsiderable


depths as we have been able to penetrate. " 19 It did so by first delineating the multifarious spatial forms that make up the surface of the earth and then drawing up an inventory of the products of the three kingdoms of nature and the varieties of humankind. Buffon's monumental Histoire naturelle opens with a "history and theory of the earth," which surveys the structure and dynamic of the crust of the earth by means of an elaborate geomorphological terminology. The Linnean school of natural history gave birth to the first systematic physical geography, Torbern Bergman's Physical Description of the Earth, in 1766. Beginning with a general overview of the earth's surface, it lays out a detailed plan for describing surface structures of land, the distribution of water, the atmosphere, and the organic bodies that inhabit the earth. 20 In the spirit of natural history, Philippe Buache classified mountains according to high, medium, or low elevation, presenting a grand view o~ the major mountain systems in the worldY Building upon Buache, Johann Christoph Gatterer attempted to develop a system of "natural classifications" of all spatial forms. Of great theoretical interest was his classification of rivers in terms of drainage basins. 22 The natural classification of oceans, rivers, mountains, and other spatial forms prepared the ground for the naturalist's main interest, namely, making inventories of the products of nature. To inventory means to localize objects in space. Convinced of the existence of a perfect order in nature, naturalists saw their mission as assigning to each and every species a specific place in this order. Linne's Systema Naturae localizes all known species from the three kingdoms of nature in the logical space of the classificatory system. It is only a small step from localizing individual species in a logical space to localizing them in the empirical terrestrial space. A follower of Linne argued: "Just as in nature the prodigious amount of things follow a proper plan, so 1 believed ... to be able to discover an order in the number and distribution of these things as well." 23 Kant placed the description of nature according to natural space, that is, the geographic description of nature, on a par with the description of nature according to logical categories in the Linnean Systema Naturae. 24 Indeed, the geography of plants, zoogeography, and the physical geography of humankind, which are concerned with the distribution patterns, respectively, of plants, animals, and humans in terrestrial space, all grew out of natural history. Albrecht von Haller, a noted naturalist in the age of Linne and Buffon, studied the distribution of plants in the Swiss Alps, comparing the vertical zones of vegetation to the latitudinal zones of similar floristic character. 25 Buffon's natural history of humans takes the form of a description of the spatial distribution of humankind around the globe, thus adding a geographic dimension to the eighteenth-century fascination with racial differences. 26 Zimmermann transformed the natural history of



humankind and of quadrupeds into a "geographic history," thereby inaugurating zoogeography. In the years around I8oo the study of the spatial distribution of natural beings found such wide currency that it came to be considered "the only and true foundation of natural history. " 27 Whereas natural history helped ground natural geography in experience and reason, statistics (Statistik or Staatsbeschreibung) did the same for political geography. Statistics in its eighteenth-century sense of description .of the state (notitia rerum publicarum) was a discourse founded by Gottfried Achenwall. 28 It has much in common with natural history. Both belong to historia, empirical knowledge of the particular as opposed to rational knowledge of the general. Statistics is as distinct from a rational philosophy of the state as natural history is from a rational philosophy of nature. 29 One describes particulars in the realm of nature, and the other describes particulars in the realm of the political. Crucial to both is a system of categories, in terms of which particular objects and phenomena are made visible, identified, and properly classified. Achenwall's list of categories includes land; the number, physical, and moral characteristics of the population; constitution; form of government; church affairs; learning; judicial system; manufacture; commerce; finance; war and defense; and property rights. These categories were originally intended only for European states but later on were also applied to certain European overseas possessions. Gatterer, Achenwall's colleague in Gottingen, proposed to extend them to the description of the world as a whole, and for this purpose invented a "world statistics." 30 As a mode of describing the world, statistics had an apparent affinity with geography. With explicit reference to Achenwall, Anton Friedrich Biisching sought to build a new edifice of geography on the foundation of statistics. 31 In his Neue Erdbeschreibung, the single most widely circulated geographic compendium in the second half of the eighteenth century, Biisching reduced mathematical and natural geography to an almost negligible propaedeutic to political geography, while the overblown political geography became indistinguishable from statistics. 32 Although statistics flourished in the wake of Achenwall, an. alternative mode of portraying social formations came into being under the name of ethnography (Volkerkunde). A term coined in I77I by August Ludwig Schlozer, "ethnography" referred to the description of peoples rather than states. 33 There were many reasons why the concept of "people" should rise to prominence at this time. Voyages of discovery taught Europeans to realize that many people in the world did not live in a state. Within Europe, the boundaries of the settlements of different peoples did not always coincide with the boundaries of states. Germans in particular, who lived in the politically and religiously fragmented Holy Roman Empire in the center of Europe, surrounded by Slavonic, Scandinavian, Baltic, indeed


almost all other peoples of the continent, tended to see themselves as belonging to a people rather than a particular state. 34 What Schlozer meant by ethnography was still far removed from the meaning of the term today. Rather, it performed the function of classification, "primarily intended as a method for critically ascertaining the kinship and interrelations of the peoples in a certain area (which would be called today 'ethnohistory'). " 35 Gatterer, Schlozer's colleague in Gottingen, in his Outline of Geography (Abriss der Geographie, 1775) first conceived of ethnography as a description of peoples according to specific criteria. He listed seven items under the heading of "Menschen- und Volkerkunde," or anthro- and ethnography: geography of human bodies in respect to figure and color, geography of language, geography of religions, geography of products, geography of culture, geography of trade, and geography of geography. 36 Gatterer's conception of ethnography never went beyond a blueprint, but it heralded a mode of representing social formations distinct from statistics. 37 In the decades following the publication of Gatterer's Outline of Geography, ethnography as a branch of geography was consolidated, even though its descriptive criteria remained in a state of flux. In a programmatic essay, Theophil Friedrich Ehrmann maintained that ethnography should address the following seven aspects of human life: physical characteristics, language, religion, customs, culture, civil constitution and political organization, and history. 38 Whereas statistics came into being as an independent discipline and was later appropriated by geography, what went by the name of ethnography in the late eighteenth century emerged out of the geographic description of human life and represented an integral part of geography from the outset. 39 However, it remained a vexed question as to what part of the traditional triptych ethnography should belong to. Kant placed both the description of states and that of peoples (Volkerschaften) under the rubric of political geography, whose domain of objects was supposed to cover "the situation of their countries, the nature of their products, customs, industry, trade and population. " 40 Gatterer, by contrast, deemed statistics and ethnography to be two distinctive branches of geography. 41 For Ehrmann, the political organization of the state represented only one particular aspect of the life of a people, so statistics ought to be subsumed under ethnography. In view of the political upheavals in the postrevolutionary era, some geographers called for the "expulsion" of statistics from geography, proposing that the vacuum left behind be filled with ethnography. 42 It was symptomatic of the uncertain status of ethnography in relation to the predominant classification scheme of geography that Johann Ernst Fabri, a major writer of geographic compendia around r8oo, held rather contradictory views, sometimes counting ethnography as part of political geography, 43 sometimes contending that only statistics



qualified as political geography, whereas ethnography in the sense of description of peoples without state institutions belonged to physical geography.44 In general, statistics and ethnography seemed to be treated as two more or less equal, at times complementary, parts of what traditionally made up political geography. TRAVELING AND THE BOOK MARKET: PROLIFERATION OF GEOGRAPHIC KNOWLEDGE IN THE LATE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

Embedded in a network of diverse fields of knowledge including natural history, statistics, and ethnography, geography reached an unprecedented level of complexity in the second half of the eighteenth century. The tripartite structure of mathematical, natural, and political geography still held its own. But compared to geography in the seventeenth century, each part had now gained a new character. There had been steady progress in mathematical geography. In natural geography, the congeries of at times fanciful descriptions of natural phenomena, objects, wonders, and monsters gave way to the systematic description of terrestrial space and its contents based on empirical observation. In political geography, disciplined statistical and ethnographical descriptions displaced the miscellany of curiosities about various kingdoms and empires, regalia, exotic customs, and the like. 45 These empirical impulses were accompanied by an exponential increase in the quantity of geographic knowledge generated by intensifying travel activities and the commercially driven book market. Natural history, statistics, and ethnography shared the same empirical basis, travel reports. Linne declared traveling to be one of the best ways to gain experience: The natural philosopher, the mineralogist, the botanist, the zoologist, the physician, the farmer, and all others, initiated in any part of natural knowledge, may find in traveling thro' our own country things, which they will own they never dreamed of before. Nay things which to this day were never discovered by any person whatever. Lastly such things, as may not only gratify, and satiate their curiosity; but may be of service to themselves, their countrey, and all the world. 46

Even though Linne himself never traveled much further than Lapland, his disciples roamed all the corners of the globe in search of new species. Like natural history, statistics relied on traveling as its main source of information. Achenwall demanded that statistics be based on the most recent firsthand accounts of the countries to be describedY The new field of ethnography relied even more strongly on traveling, often consisting of nothing much more than excerpts and summaries of travel accounts. 48 Indeed, the flowering of natural history, statistics, and ethnography-and by the



same token, the rapid growth of natural and political geography-was all of a piece with the spate of travel activities that earned the late eighteenth century the reputation of the second age of discovery. During this period, well-developed road networks and regular, speedy postal services facilitated traveling and long-distance communication within Europe; 49 revolutionary improvements in navigation technologies-including shipbuilding, charting, and onboard logistics-made intercontinental travel both safe and fast. 5° Propelled by these technical advancements, motivated by either "political interest," or "speculation of the merchant," or the "enthusiasm for truth," 51 the European exploration of the globe reached an apogee. 52 Apart from substantial material gains, extensive traveling also produced an enormous amount of information about the world, as a contemporary enthusiastically pronounced: "So there came and still comes from hundreds of directions an amazing mass of knowledge." 53 Natural history, statistics, and ethnography were specific epistemic matrices by means of which this tremendous mass of information generated by traveling could be organized and processed. Once these matrices took shape, they fed back into, and thereby altered, the practice of traveling. In 1761, Carsten Niebuhr embarked on his expedition to Arabia armed with 349 scientific, statistical, and ethnographic questions prepared by the orientalist Johann David Michaelis. 54 Knowledge production and traveling entered a symbiotic relationship, energizing each other, feeding on each other. The era of scientific expeditions with detailed research programs was dawning. Perhaps nothing better illustrates the impact of such scientific expeditions on the development of geography than Johann Reinhold Forster's Observations Made during a Voyage round the World, on Physical Geography, Natural History, and Ethic Philosophy (1778). Forster, together with his son Georg, was the naturalist on board James Cook's second voyage around the world. His great learning guided his observations, and his observations underpinned his learning. The result was one of the highest achievements in eighteenth-century physical geography and ethnography. The first part of Observations is modeled on Torbern Bergman's Physical Description of the Earth, dealing with the topics of land, water, the atmosphere, the changes of the globe, and the organic bodies, but enriched with insights gained through his voyage. The second part offers an at once systematic and comparative ethnography of the South Pacific, describing and comparing the physical appearances, customs, languages, religions, and modes of social organization of the islanders according to a wide range of criteria. The traveler harvested geographic facts from all the recesses of the globe, and the scholar processed these facts into naturalist, statistical, and ethnographic knowledge, but it was the publisher who introduced all this knowledge into circulation. The second half of the eighteenth century wit-



nessed a veritable quantitative revolution in book production and book trade. In the eighteenth century, German book fairs offered more than a quarter of a million titles, two-thirds of which were published after 1750. 55 In this booming book market, travel writing and geographic publications enjoyed great popularity. 5 6 A press specializing in geography was launched in I790 in Goethe's Weimar, 57 So many travel accounts were published that special catalogs became necessary for bookstores and readers alike. 58 Calls for critical bibliographies of geographic writings became louder by the day. 59 The periodical emerged as a preferred medium for keeping track of and disseminating rapidly growing geographic knowledge. 60 In the first issue of Allgemeine Geographische Ephemeriden, the most important geographic periodical of the time, the editor made clear that the journal's goal was nothing less than "to give the most careful thought to everything concerning the study of regions, peoples, and states, everything concerning physical and political geography, topography, chorography, new travels and discoveries, and so on, and to review, as soon and as comprehensively as possible, everything remarkable and worth knowing that is published in these fields. " 61 In addition to including original essays, the journal lay great emphasis on book and map reviews and miscellaneous news of discoveries. This editorial ambition indicates that in the years around I8oo the representation of global space could no longer be contained within the covers of a single book, but took the form of a complex network of written communication, with book reviews in periodicals as its nodal points. As a result of stepped-up traveling and the flowering of book culture, geographic knowledge proliferated at an ever-accelerating speed; One author in Allgemeine Geographische Ephemeriden exclaimed: "Taken as whole, the number of all sorts of geographic writings ... has grown to an immense size, and increases day by day, like an avalanche of snow rolling down the Alps!" 62 The state of geography around I8oo can be appropriately characterized in terms of what nowadays is called information overload. Under the growing mass of empirical data, topical classification, the technique of information processing that had sustained geography so far, began to fail.

The Crisis of Descriptive Geography: Temporalization and Subjectivization of Geographic Knowledge The "pressure of experience" and "constraint of empiricization" combined to plunge geography into a deep crisis in the final decades of the eighteenth century. 63 The inability of topical classification to accommodate the rapidly growing data proved to have two immediate consequences: the


temporalization and the subjectivization of geographic knowledge. The classification-based descriptive geography came to an end, along with the demise of both natural history and statistics that had formed its foundations.64 It had been the typographical culture inaugurated by Gutenberg that gave rise to the classificatory, spatial model of organizing knowledge, 65 but the final triumph of print culture around r 8oo paradoxically sounded its death knell. In contrast to the geography entries in Alsted and Zedler's encyclopedia, the article on geography in Diderot and d' Alembert's Encyclopedie begins neither by locating it within the system of sciences nor by laying out its own topical structure. With the opening remark that "no one really knows to what time this science dated back in the antiquity, " 66 this article instead traces the development of geography in ancient cultures as well as modern times, before adverting to the classification of mathematical, natural, political, and ecclesiastical geography. Geographic knowledge was temporalized. Histories of geography mushroomed in the age of the Encyclopedie, in which both the astronomical study of the planet and the exploration of terrestrial space were depicted as endeavors common to humankind in general and, true to the spirit of the Enlightenment, recounted in the form of a narrative of progress. 67 Geography, as an enlightened British scholar put it, is "like every other science, whose imperfect beginnings ought to be traced, and the Time and Manner pointed out in which it received its gradual Improvements." 68 The accumulation and development of geographic knowledge came to assume a universal historical dimension. For Matthias Christian Sprengel, a geographer and commentator on contemporary events, Barbarians and savages do not have reliable knowledge of the borders of their own country. They get to know their neighbors accidentally through skirmishes, and they know so little of the rest of the earth that they believe themselves to be the only and the greatest citizens of the world. Hence the original names of the most peoples, which had come down to us, mean simply people, inhabitant or man .... For the expansion of geographic knowledge we have only enlightened peoples to thank. Hunger and feuds, hunting and fishing, smallpox and slavery, of course, disperse savages wide away from their homes. But only peoples who send out conquerors and missionaries, Argonauts and merchants, have reconnoitered the earth and its most hidden corners. 69

In arguing that geography gradually improved in the course of time and that this improvement encapsulated the universal history of civilization, histories of geography destabilized the classificatory ordering of geographic knowledge in a dual sense. First, geography became unmoored from the static system of sciences, viewed no longer in terms of its topical position, but in terms of its historical development that seemed to accelerate by the



day. 70 Second and more important, the internal topical structure of geography itself became shaky, as the knowledge of the earth as an astronomical body (mathematical geography) and as physical space (natural geography) was no longer merely juxtaposed to knowledge of the human sphere (political geography) but was brought into a vital relation to the human sphere, thought of as produced by human actions and performing specific functions for human existence. In spotlighting "conquerors and missionaries, Argonauts and merchants" as producers of geographic knowledge, Sprengel came close to defining it as the human experience of terrestrial space. The conception of geography as the description of the earth and its inhabitants was about to metamorphose into a new conception of it as the description of the earth by its inhabitants. The historicization of geographic knowledge and the ensuing conceptualization of it as a function of human experience led to a distinction between subjective geography-the pragmatically motivated knowledge of the earth or "correct information on the true shape and condition of the earth's surface, and on its inhabitants in every age"-and objective geography-the description of the earth as it actually is, or "a correct representation." 71 Even though largely unelaborated and still buried in the thicket of countless systematic distinctions typical of eighteenthcentury academic textbooks, this distinction between subjective and objective geography found broad resonance. 72 Fabri mapped it onto the terminological distinction between Erdbeschreibung and Erdkunde. He used the traditional term for geography, Erdbeschreibung, to designate the general, "objective" description of the condition of the earth, which is expected to remain the same all the time. He deployed the term Erdkunde to refer to theoretical knowledge of the earth, which is subject to historical development. 73 A neologism coined by Gatterer in his Outline of Geography, the concept of Erdkunde was initially supposed to highlight the subjective investment in the knowledge of the earth, without questioning the legitimacy of Erdbeschreibung as the "objective" description of the earth devoid of pragmatic dimensions. Yet the coexistence of Erdkunde and Erdbeschreibung was not to last long. Relentless strife among European states, as well as the ongoing colonizing enterprises of European powers on other continents, redrew political borders so frequently and so extensively that political geography "took on a new form almost every month" and "a few hours can wreak great havoc to the works of our political geographers. " 74 The dawning realization that there could be no objective, unchanging descriptions of the political conditions on the earth led some geographers to propose to purge geography of its political component and to turn it into a "pure geography"-a geography that "is supposed to represent the natural shape and the divisions of the


unorganized surface of the whole terrestrial body. " 75 However, for Gatterer, claimed as a forerunner by advocates of "pure geography," even the physical condition of the earth could never remain constant. The goal of geography, he maintained, was "to get to know thoroughly the earth's surface and its inhabitants, the human beings: both not only as they are from nature, but also as they have been transformed by nature, times, customs, and political institutions: in short, the true shape of the earth and its inhabitants in every age." 76 The physical surface of the earth, like its inhabitants, has undergone and is still undergoing changes. Therefore, an objective description of the physical condition of the earth may be just as impossible to attain as that of its political condition. There arose a nagging sense that geographic knowledge in the sense of Erdbeschreibung possibly could lay claim to nothing more than temporary validity/ 7 and that all statements about the earth bore an indelible historical signature. During the first decade of the nineteenth century, the view took root that descriptions of the earth varied from age to age and from place to place.78 Even the seemingly most objective description of the natural boundaries of mountains, plains, rivers, and oceans, as was pointed out in a polemic against the project of pure geography, depends on the mode of description adopted by the subject: It was not the purpose of nature to place in front of the human eyes a comfortable schema for scientific representation .... The scientific quality of representation, understandably, cannot be grounded in its material, for there is nothing that could not become the object of knowledge and science, but must lie only in the treatment.79

The truth value of geography resides not in the earth itself, but in .the ways in which the subject approaches the earth. Therefore, there can be no objective geography. This increasing awareness of the subjective dimension of geographic knowledge manifested itself on the terminological level in the eclipse of Erdbeschreibung by Erdkunde. Coined in the rnos, increasingly gaining currency from the 1790s onward, Erdkunde eventually edged out Erdbeschreibung completely after the publication of the first volume of Ritter's magnum opus Die Erdkunde in r8r7. The various strands of development traced in the previous discussionthe emergence of histories of geography, the differentia#on of objective and subjective geography, and the subsequent displacement of objective geography by subjective geography-converged toward the realization that geographic knowledge sprang from the experience of humans in their attempt to come to grips with terrestrial space. Such a realization indicated that in geography, this time-honored branch of knowledge, the mode of knowing was being redefined and the domain of objects reconfigured in the decades around r8oo.



From Topical Space to Experienced Space: Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Ritter Classification as a technique of organizing and processing knowledge was invented in the sixteenth century by humanist scholars, most notably by Peter Ramus in his attempt to arrange every subject of knowledge in a topically conceived "dialectical order." From the outset, it was part and parcel of a didactics based on mnemonics. In the Ramist method, the order of knowledge "was set out in schematic form in which the 'general' or inclusive aspects of the subject came first, descending thence through a series of dichotomised classifications to the 'specials' or individual aspects. Once a subject was set out in its dialectical order it was memorised in this order from the schematic presentation-the famous Ramist epitome." 80 Drawing on Ramus and others, Alsted's encyclopedia of I63o is also structured according to didactic-mnemonic principles, serving at once as an instrument of invention, an aid in judgment, and a repository of memory. "Topics represented the leading model for didactics and mnemonics. In learning by using this model, the contents were transported into memory in accordance with a specific topical order and were retrievable according to the same order. " 81 In mnemonic topics, knowledge as a whole figures as a spatial structure made up of various loci, or places, to which one can betake oneself if one needs to learn something about a subject or to find ideas for making an argument. The basis of thinking about the loci, therefore, "was not any settled philosophical outlook but simply an unacknowledged but inexorable disposition to represent thought and communication in terms of spatial models and thus to reduce mental activity to local motion. " 82 Learning, therefore, consists in navigating the topical space of knowledge as a whole, finding the right place for a particular item of knowledge, whence it can be retrieved by memory when needed. Geography occupies a specific place in the topical space of knowledge; this place itself represents a space consisting of a number of places, that is, mathematical, natural, and political geography; and each of these places, in turn, represents a space containing numerous places. Natural geography, for instance, features oceans, rivers, mountains, and the like. Acquiring geographic knowledge means nothing other than memorizing the topical space in which it is located. The classificatory organization of knowledge and the accompanying mnemonic didactics persisted well into the se