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Escapism [Paperback]

Yi-Fu Tuan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 18.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 July 2000

In prehistoric times, our ancestors began building shelters and planting crops in order to escape from nature's harsh realities. Today, we flee urban dangers for the safer, reconfigured world of suburban lawns and parks. According to geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, people have always sought to escape in one way or another, sometimes foolishly, often creatively and ingeniously. Glass-tower cities, suburbs, shopping malls, Disneyland—all are among the most recent monuments in our efforts to escape the constraints and uncertainties of life—ultimately, those imposed by nature. "What cultural product," Tuan asks, "is not escape?" In his new book, the capstone of a celebrated career, Tuan shows that escapism is an inescapable component of human thought and culture.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; New Ed edition (25 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801865409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801865404
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 837,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Escapism... is not so much an argument as a tour—sometimes a tour de force—of cultural escapes with exotic stops and unexpected twists and turns. And such a convivial tour guide! Tuan is chatty, engaging, unpretentious and charming.

(Francis I. Kane New York Times Book Review)

A reader could hardly ask for a more congenial guide, as Tuan's discussion ranges from Christ's last supper to chimpanzees copulating, from African bushmen barbecuing a turtle to diplomat-author Harold Nicolson bathing in a lake... Through this unusual perspective, Tuan is able to realign things usually considered opposites—'fantasy' and 'reality,' 'travel' and 'home,' 'work' and 'private life'—until they converge in fruitful new combinations... His playful treatment of life's glum realities feels at times as tonic as a leisurely Sunday morning... An original work to be read for both intellectual profit and pleasure.

(Jeffery Paine Washington Post Book World)

Writing in a deeply thoughtful style, Tuan, a leading cultural geographer, examines the wonders and atrocities that stem from the human impulse to deny the brutal realities of earthly existence.

(Utne Reader)

Book Description

Acclaimed cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan considers humanity's enduring desire to escape reality -- and embrace alternatives such as love, culture, and Disneyworld

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"Escapism" has a somewhat negative meaning in our society and perhaps in all societies. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective 21 Mar 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm not going to say too much about this book because it really depends on which way you read it as to how you interpret its observations and philosophies. I will say that, from a Geographer's perspective, it was really interested to delve into the concepts of Escape and it eventually helped shape my undergraduate dissertation. Worth checking out.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cure for a figurative head cold 3 April 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Yi-Fu Tuan says that "a human being is an animal who is congenitally indisposed to accept reality as it is." He says ESCAPISM is the strategy we employ to rid ourselves of the humdrum of daily life which he likens to suffering a head cold. The book itself is a good head-clearing remedy. Tuan covers a wide range of topics in human cultural history and gives us a lot to think about.
He gives an "unusual" perspective on nature and culture, looking at the very meaning of reality and exploring why, traditionally, "myths", "daydreaming", and "fantasy" have such negative connotations. This is especially puzzling he says in light of escapism being not only a historical human impulse but also a universal one. He shows this with examples from Eastern and Western culture. Another puzzle is why, if it's so intrinsic to our nature, do we choose to make some explorations of it so painful? His chapter on "Hell" looks at the less-than-pleasant escapes that we have inflicted on ourselves.
Tuan is a geographer of some repute and he exhibits his masterly command of exploration of unknown spaces and places with this fascinating journey through our imagination, culture, and psyche.
He is occasionally humorous and writes in a spare, straightforward style. Reading this book is escapism itself as it will make you think, and in a final bit of perceptive wisdom Tuan has this to say: "Even in modern America, thinking is suspect. It is something done by the idly curious or by discontented people." If that's true then I endorse being idly curious and recommend escaping for a while with this book.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Culture as an escape from animality 15 Nov 2003
By Steven Reynolds - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We tend to think of the way we live as "reality". Yet all human culture - from the smallest object to the grandest ideological-religious system - is a form of escape. Indeed, argues Tuan, it may well be the defining feature of humans, as a species, that we have this capacity to imagine and implement transformative projects; that we can turn the world to our will (or try to), rather than remaining the victim of Nature or of our own natures. "Escape" or "the imagination" is value-neutral, argues Tuan, as he explores the methods by which we attempt to escape from animality, and how it can lead us into both the grotesque and the sublime. What's incredibly satisfying about this book is that Tuan approaches his topic not from the position of philosopher or psychologist, but from the perspective of "human geography" which, in practice, becomes a helpful blend of sociology and anthropology grounded in history and science, but with enough gaps to allow for fruitful speculation. My only complaint is that the sheer breadth of Yi-Fu Tuan's knowledge leaves you feeling slightly dissatisfied, as if this book is only scratching the surface of an immense topic - which, of course, it necessarily is. So I suppose my dissatisfaction is only with myself. Thankfully, Tuan provides detailed notes and an excellent bibliography to point the way forward.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Escapism without an escape 28 May 2012
By S. Smith-Peter - Published on
I had a strange feeling upon finishing this book. By arguing that culture itself is a form of escapism from nature and that humans cannot avoid being escapist, I felt that there was no escape left. We go around in a circle and end up in the same place we started: hoping for escape but knowing we can never find it.

The writing is tactile and precise, and the examples interesting, and yet at the end I felt a bit stifled.
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