Cosmos and Hearth: A Cosmopolite's Viewpoint

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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 ...
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Overview

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."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hearth, as defined in this erudite, provocative inquiry, means familial warmth, small-scale intimacy, hometown loyalties. Cosmos is the larger reality of society, civilization, world. Tuan, geography professor (Univ. of Wisconsin) and author of Landscapes of Fear-born in China, raised there and in Australia and England-brings a cosmopolitan perspective to his discussion of our need to balance the polarities of hearth and cosmos. The book's centerpiece, a comparative analysis of China and the U.S., touches on the Confucian concept of cosmic harmony, China's centuries-old clash with Tibet, modern China's outward-directed modernization, and American immigrants' struggles against oppression and bias. Championing both the hearth and cities as necessary crucibles of human development, Tuan suggests that we strive for a "cosmopolitan hearth" by recognizing the importance of family and local ties while open-mindedly appreciating one's culture without chauvinism or xenophobia. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Can humans meld the desire for a cozy, immediate surrounding with the broadening aspects of cosmopolitanism? This is Tuan's (Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture, 1993, etc.) central question in a ranging, very personal study.

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 heritage—does 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, think—Tuan'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?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816627318
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Two Scales and Autobiography 1
2 China 15
3 The United States 73
4 A Cosmopolites Viewpoint 133
Notes 189
Index 201
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