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Annali d'Italianistica


The concept of landscape has been the focus of many theoretical and political debates during the last decades and is bound to play a dominant role in the future, as industrialized societies face more and more difficult environmental challenges. Landscape is no longer considered an exclusive domain to be enjoyed by few individuals endowed with a superior aesthetic sensibility, as the notion that we inherited from Romanticism seems to imply. One of the most compelling calls for a new definition of landscape came from John Brinkerhoff Jackson, one of the main cultural geographers of the last century. In his seminal study, entitled Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, Jackson challenged the traditional description created by art historians that we still find in our dictionaries, which define landscape as a portion of land that the eye can comprehend at a glance.He put forth the thesis that "a landscape is not a natural feature of the environment, but a synthetic space, a man-made system of spaces superimposed on the face of the land, functioning and evolving not according to natural laws but to serve a community". In my essay, I would like to show that recent critical thought, both in Italy and elsewhere, has been moving from an elitist definition of landscape to a more democratic one. I will start by examining the work of some of the most important contributers to the field and then I will show how Italian critical discourse intertwines with the ongoing global debate on landscape. Given the interdisciplinary character of the concept, I will draw from a number of disciplines, including philosophy, geography, art history, literature, and urban studies.


This published version is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit Annali d’Italianistica - Ibiblio's Website.