‘Lithogenesis’: Towards a (Geo)Poetics of Place


  • Jos Smith University of Exeter


place, geopoetics, Tim Robinson, Earth heritage, nature writing, autopoesis


Stone and geology have proved themselves appealing to twentieth- and twenty-first-century authors concerned with place-writing and the development of place-consciousness more widely. The austere presence of materials which have emerged from a scale of time difficult to relate to our own has offered a humbling corrective to our modern experience. Such encounters have also been resistant to a particular intersection of environmental and Romantic traditions of thought that searches for a ‘reunion’ with nature. In so doing they may present a useful way forward for thinking through place in a modern context. Stone and geology are explored in three authors here – Kenneth White, Tim Robinson and Alastair McIntosh. In each of their works we can read a consistent effort to reimagine the cultural geography of place by turning toward a deeper understanding of the stone beneath their feet. Far from being a source of stability and reliability, these three find themselves accommodating unstable, vertiginous, expansive and precarious truths that can be drawn upon as a source for, what White calls, ‘cultural renewal’. Realising the impossibility of fully reconciling to such a non-human scale of presence, an otherness so sheer, also leads to the opening of what Heidegger calls a ‘clearing’ (Lichtung), both in terms of an aesthetic space in the poetics of topographical writing but also in terms of a lived place and the creativity at the heart of place identity. 

Author Biography

Jos Smith, University of Exeter

I am currently a British Academy post-doctoral research fellow based at the University of Exeter, UK, undertaking a project that explores the history of the literary and visual arts communities connected with the arts and environmental charity Common Ground. More generally I work within the environmental humanities with a focussed interest in landscape and place in contemporary fiction, literary non-fiction and poetry. 


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