Monday, February 22, 2010

The Sensorium and Place

Today in class we discussed the ways in which The Land of Little Rain functiosn as an analogue for the human senses (or the "sensorium" as I called it, following Diana Fuss). Austin spends a great deal of time discussing the "sense" that certain aspects of the physical environment convey. The passage we read in class today discussed the powerful and memory-inscribing smells of a certain place. I speculated that if we looked through the book closely that we might be able to locate other passages, as extensive as the one we read today, in which she considers powerful sensory delivery to other senses by aspects of the environment. Please find a passage other than the one we discussed today and comment on how it reveals the "sense-ness" of Austin's account (today we discussed smell, so look for a passage that delivers a powerful taste, touch, or sound message).


  1. "The Water Borders" chapter has many references to sight and eyes. Once particular paragraph is hard to ignore. On page 78 the second paragraph provides multiple descriptions. For instance the first sentence "The lake is the eye of the mountain, jade green, placid, unwinking...". She goes on to describe the rocks around the lake as "stoney brows". She also refers to them as the "blind lakes". I think that each chapter may provide a different sense. I find it hard to believe that this would be an accident. I am interested and will probably post again.

  2. Going along with Liz's post, to the Native American, the earth is not just a piece of dirt; to them, it has a live "spirit". To them, the phrase "Mother Earth" is taken quite literally. In this portion of the chapter, Austin personifies the land, giving it life.

  3. A passage near the end of the book describes the plaintive call of a wildcat whose cubs had been crushed in a cave-in. Though it is a brief passage, I think it is effective in illustrating the role of sound in one's perceptions of nature beyond the visual appreciation thereof. Many people, especially today, are likely to think of nature primarily in terms of the scenery, and much nature writing is concerned with describing the visual details. However, in the actual experience one realizes that much of the action remains unseen, and many of the more affecting moments, such as the wildcat's call, are best evoked not by sight but by sound--or, increasingly in the modern day, a lack thereof. *end GARBAGE*