Cosmos and Hearth: A Cosmopolite's Viewpointby Yi-Fu Tuan
In a volume that represents the culmination of his life's work in considering the relationship between culture and landscape, Tuan argues that "cosmos" and "hearth" are two scales that anchor what it means to be fully and happily human. Hearth is our house and neighborhood, family and kinfolk, habit and custom. Cosmos, by contrast, is the larger reality - world,… See more details below
In a volume that represents the culmination of his life's work in considering the relationship between culture and landscape, Tuan argues that "cosmos" and "hearth" are two scales that anchor what it means to be fully and happily human. Hearth is our house and neighborhood, family and kinfolk, habit and custom. Cosmos, by contrast, is the larger reality - world, civilization, and humankind. Tuan addresses the extraordinary revival of interest in the hearth in recent decades, examining both the positive and negative effects of this renewed concern. Among the beneficent outcomes has been a revival of ethnic culture and sense of place. Negative repercussions abound, however, manifested as an upsurge in superstition, excessive pride in ancestry and custom, and a constricted worldview that when taken together can inflame local passions, leading at times to violent conflict - from riots in U.S. cities to wars in the Balkans. In Cosmos and Hearth, Tuan takes the position that we need to embrace both the sublime and the humble, drawing what is valuable from each. Illustrating the importance of both cosmos and hearth with examples from his country of birth, China, and from his home of the past forty years, the United States, Tuan proposes a revised conception of culture, the "cosmopolitan hearth," that has the coziness but not the narrowness and bigotry of the traditional hearth. Tuan encourages not only being thoroughly grounded in one's own culture but also the embracing of curiosity about the world. Optimistic and deeply human, Cosmos and Hearth lays out a path to being "at home in the cosmos."
Up front, Tuan stakes claim to his cosmopolitan leanings; for him they represent optimism, playfulness, inquisitiveness, opposition to dogma. Yet he also appreciates home and hearth and their gifts of nurturance and renewal, though he is troubled by the current trend toward particularism and the drumbeat of ethnic heritagedoes not the typical movement of life tend from hearth to cosmos? The product of both a Chinese and American (and Australian and English) upbringing, Tuan penetrates both cultures to see how they have dealt with the attractions of home and horizon. In China Tuan finds strong pullings in both directions: cosmic harmony and Confucian humanity, an authoritarian heavenly order versus a chaotic heterogeneity on earth. In the US he samples both our worldly role as economic and military power, and the rise of ethnic and cultural aspirations that have a very close-quarters vision. From these deliberations, Tuan proposes his own version of high modernism (optimistic, playful, etc.) couched in front of a cosmopolitan hearth: Know your own place, but know other places as well, the differences contributing to self-awareness. Those many hearths, that self-awareness, yield the ultimate peace: the acceptance of our impermanence. Go forth, read widely, laugh, be open to life's mysterious workings, think, think, thinkTuan's credos are laudable and engagingly presented, but hardly earthshaking.
Readers may wish a bit more spontaneity from Tuan, a man forever on the lookout to improve and elevate. Regarding sex, for instance, he wants to "convert the raw throbs of the body into grand human passions," via literature. So what's wrong with a little unreconstructed raw throbbing?
- University of Minnesota Press
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- 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)
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