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Holly Torres
Summary of Pierce Lewis' "Axioms for Reading the Landscape"


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Holly Torres

Professor Royal

English 1A

August 28, 2003


            In Pierce F. Lewis' excerpts from "Axioms for Reading the Landscape", he describes the basic principle of all human landscapes while continuing to explain ways to read them.  Lewis states that all human landscaping has some type of meaning no matter how simple it may be.   In the essay he explains that there are numerous ways in which cultural landscape can be read and analyzed.  For many people this may pose as a difficult task, which is why Pierce has developed basic axioms for reading cultural landscape.

            One of the most important axioms Lewis talks about is the axiom as clue to culture. Change in the look of landscape may possibly mean a change in a countrys culture.  Also it must be considered that many regions will have differing landscapes, which shows that there are distinctive cultures behind those landscapes.  In reading landscape convergence is also of major significance for convergence of lands means a possible convergence in culture, which exemplifies a lessening of tension between races.  Similar to convergence is diffusion.  This society runs in a "monkey see, monkey do" manner.  This spreads and changes cultural ideas throughout society.  Finally, every culture has differing ideas and tastes, which is the root of culture itself.  Therefore the roots of a culture itself are the roots for much of cultural landscape.

            While culture seems to be Lewis main idea behind analyzing landscape, there are also other axioms to be considered.  One is that all landscapes are created equal. Whether it is the Golden Gate Bridge or a small farmhouse, it carries the same weight.   Common things reflect ordinary Americans behavior and thinking.  There is much landscape that seems simple, however, at times a person may encounter landscape that is difficult to read due to its historic nature.  Our ancestors have built much cultural landscape; therefore it is important to understand people in the past, in their own context, to truly understand its meaning.  In connection with history is technology.  To understand a piece of landscape one must ask who started the technology that contributes to the landscape.

            Lastly, Lewis shows though his essay that geography and environmental factors play a crucial role in reading a landscape.  Many cultures decide that certain activities may only be held in certain places.  In relation to this, environment plays a key role in determining human landscape.  It is impossible to build an airport at the top of a mountain, for example. Machinery cannot concur over all aspects of the physical environment.

            Thus, through Pierce Lewis' Axioms for Reading the Landscape, it is illuminated that there is indeed order in all human landscape that at first glace may appear chaotic.  Through reading, thinking, looking, and studying, a person can become educated about cultural landscape throughout society today.