Landscapes of Desire: Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles / Edition 1

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Overview

To those of us who look at Los Angeles and see no sense at all, Landscapes of Desire offers a vivid and rewarding account of the particular visions that drove the period of Anglo dominance in the Los Angeles region, from about 1850 to about 1985. William McClung's fascinating essay, supported at every point by wonderful illustrations, shows that Anglo settlers and developers wanted nothing more than to make sense of their surroundings, but that their two dominant paradigms were at war with each other. Anglophone Los Angeles, McClung says, has tried strenuously to reconcile two competing mythologies of place and space: one of an acquired Arcadia--a found natural paradise--and the other of an invented Utopia--an empty space inviting development. The collision between these two underlying ideals is still present in the ambivalence at the heart of the city's and region's understanding of themselves.

The Arcadian dream of nurturing inherited beauty entailed idealizing the region's Hispanic past. Yet that past was simultaneously belittled by the utopian vision of arid landscapes watered into Anglo plantations and ranchos reshaped into cities. Looking at architecture, landscaping, literature, historiography, painting, conceptual art, and such ancillary materials as booster pamphlets, real estate promotions, and citrus box labels, McClung presents a new and refreshingly revisionist view of the city's growth.

From Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel Ramona to the work of artists David Hockney, Edward Ruscha, and Terry Schoonhoven in the 1960s and after, Los Angeles has been an arena of competing and often incompatible constructions of ideal place and space. Examining designed spaces, including buildings, parks, freeways, and whole neighborhoods and communities, McClung gives readers a strong sense of the contradictions, failures, and triumphs that continue to govern L.A.'s image of itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
It is the power of books (when they are good enough) to give readers an experience of an entire life. William McClung's Landscapes of Desire is a book more than good enough. The reader gets a sense of the author's life with the idea of Los Angeles (dense with images and citations from the literature) as well as a map through the vast, imaginative work that is this city.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520234659
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 297
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

William Alexander McClung is Professor of English, Emeritus at Mississippi State University and author of The Architecture of Paradise: Survivals of Eden and Jerusalem (California, 1983) and The Country House in English Renaissance Poetry (California, 1977).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Preface xv
Acknowledgments xix
1 Inventing Utopia 1
2 City of Metaphor 40
3 A Usable Past 72
4 The Shapes of L.A. 113
5 Inventing Arcadia 198
Afterword 231
Explanatory Notes 235
Reference Notes 243
Illustration Credits 267
Index 269
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