Memory, Imagination, and the Hermeneutics of Place

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Book Chapter


This essay develops an interpretive structure through which to understand the temporal dimension of place. Nature can be encountered hermeneutically through the concept of place; narratives of place serve as starting points for interpreting environments. The idea of the narrative self is a complementary concept: just as one encounters places as having a narrative dimension, the places that one finds oneself impact and change the story of that defines self-identity. In response to this relationship between place and self, this essay argues for a new understanding of time for environmental philosophy, focusing on a dialectical relationship between the “time of place” and the “place of time.” The temporality of place is discovered through our memory of the past presence of place. Likewise, the present uncovers the future of a place through the possibilities explored in the imagination. Together, memory and imagination suggest that places hold a deep sense of time, contrary to the temporal shallowness we sometimes experience.

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