The Metaphorical Drift of Classical Wilderness

  • Andrew Light University of Alberta
Keywords: Hermeneutic Transformations, Wilderness, Metaphorical Connotations, Hegemony


How do the meanings of words shape actions towards and reactions to others? Such a question is crucial to philosophers and geographers interested in terms which describe space and place. This paper investigates the hermeneutic transformations of 'wilderness', a word which is of particular interest to both environmental philosophers and social geographers, with attention to the social and political connotations it continues to have. Specifically, the metaphorical connotations of the term are tackled through an argument that the identifiable qualities of classical wilderness have gradually been passed from descriptions of nature to descriptions of cities. Just as the political dimensions of classical wilderness served as the basis for a demonization of inhabitants of natural wilderness--aboriginal peoples in North America-so too are inner city residents feared and discriminated against through a racist patische that includes the idea that they are savages in an urban wilderness. What is to be done about this semantic drift of wilderness? This discussion ends with an attempt to sketch out one basis for a political response to this transformation using Gramsci's notion of hegemony.


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