Geography 882: Development of Geographic Thought

Course Rationale

Geography 882 is a required course for the program of study leading to a doctoral degree in Geography. Why is this? When you leave Ohio State with a Ph.D. from this department, you are carrying a label identifying you as a geographer. We believe that it is important that you take with you a clear picture of what the discipline has been in the past and what it is now, and that you are aware of the issues that are likely to play significant roles in its further development. In addition, we expect that doctoral-level students should be giving some thought to the important philosophical and methodological issues that underpin their work. In a specialized doctoral program such as that at Ohio State, it is particularly important that these issues be confronted.

The nature of this course is such that I am particularly interested in your ideas. I hope to be able to introduce you to some ways of thinking about particular issues but I would not be happy if you were to adopt my viewpoints completely and uncritically. I expect critical analysis of the readings, of my ideas and of the ideas of your classmates and will be disappointed if this course does not encourage this. Naturally, I expect your positions and criticisms to be rationally defensible.


There is no required text. Instead readings will be made available for you to photocopy in your own time and at your own expense. A copy of the readings will be kept in Room 1035, on the metal shelves to the right of the sink, which will be accessible 24 hours per day, seven days a week to those with departmental keys. Please ensure that you return the readings to the shelves after copying (i) promptly, (ii) in the envelope provided, (iii) in good condition, and (iv) in the correct page order! The readings to cover the first portion of the course are already there and are outlined in the accompanying reading list. I suggest that you keep the readings in a 3-ring binder, into which class notes and any written comments provided by me may also be inserted.

In order to help you make sense of the papers, I am putting together written narratives. These will be placed online for you and will be called 'Modules.' Their numbering system will accord with that in the syllabus.

There is one book that is strongly recommended, though not required. This is The Dictionary of Human Geography edited by R J Johnston, D Gregory, G Pratt and M Watts, and published by Blackwell. Make sure you get the 4th edition if you decide to buy it. It is an excellent compilation.

The following is a list of some books that you might find worth consulting on an occasional basis.

Agnew, J., D.N. Livingstone & A. Rogers, 1996, Human Geography: An Essential Anthology. Blackwell.

Bird, J., 1993, The Changing Worlds of Geography. Clarendon Press.

Cloke, P., C. Philo and D. Sadler, 1991, Approaching Human Geography. Guilford Press

Entrikin, J.N. and S.D. Brunn (eds.), 1989, Reflections on Richard Hartshorne's "The Nature of Geography", AAG.

Gregory, D., 1994, Geographical Imaginations. Basil Blackwell.

Haggett, P., 1990, The Geographer's Art. Basil Blackwell.

Hartshorne, R., 1939, The Nature of Geography. AAG.

Hartshorne, R., 1960, Perspective on the Nature of Geography. John Murray.

Harvey, D., 1969, Explanation in Geography. Edward Arnold.

Johnston, R.J., 1983, Philosophy and Human Geography. Edward Arnold.

Johnston, R.J., 1991, Geography and Geographers: Anglo-American Human Geography Since 1945. Edward Arnold.

Johnston, R.J., D. Gregory and D.M. Smith (eds.), 1986, The Dictionary of Human Geography. Blackwell.

Livingstone, D.N., 1992, The Geographical Tradition. Blackwell.

Peet, Richard, 1998, Modern Geographical Thought. Blackwell.

Stoddart, D.R., 1986, On Geography. Basil Blackwell.

Unwin, T., 1992, The Place of Geography. Longman.



The course is divided into three main sections.

1. The Three Traditions of Geography: In his AAG Presidential Address in 1973, Taaffe identified three substantive geographical traditions: the 'man-land' or environmental, the regional, and the spatial. Each of these will be examined in this section. The aim is to provide the student with not just a sense of what these traditions have consisted, but also how they have related one to another, how they have changed over time, how some have been more dominant in some periods than in others, and what they have signified for the relation between human and physical geography. Follow link to see more about this section.

2. Questions of Substance and Method in Geography: Certain objects / relationships are central to geography. These include: 'space', 'nature', 'people', 'society' and 'time.' What exactly do we understand by these? What is their nature? Aside from being fundamental to theorizing in geography, the nature of these objects and relationships is also important to the methods we choose to employ. Ideas about appropriate method have generated fierce debate in geography and more recently that same debate has applied to our understanding of the nature of our objects of study. These debates will be an important object of our discussion in this section. Follow link to see more about this section.

3. The History and Geography of Geographic Thought: Geography has obviously changed over time in terms both of its methodological and its conceptual commitments. There are different ways in which we can approach this history. One might be a simple chronological recounting of events in order to establish what might have influenced what. An alternative would be more sociological in its emphasis, looking at the development of disciplines in terms of intra-disciplinary struggles for power or in terms of broader social developments. Geographic thought can also be situated geographically. We can think, for example, in terms of different geographically-based schools of thought -- the French School, the Iowa School, the German landscape school, the Berkeley School, etc. In other words, in trying to understand geographic thought, why should we simply look at it historically? This will also include a discussion of the problem of situating geography in the broader context of other spatial sciences like geology, anthropology, archaeology, atmospheric science, urban sociology/economics, regional science, and city and regional planning. Follow link to see more about this section.


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