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The Idea of North (Topographics) Paperback – 1 Nov 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (1 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861892306
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861892300
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"An interesting meditation." -- Tom Shippey "Times Literary Supplement" (04/01/2005)

"A truly stunning assessment of the concept of 'north' in literature, legend, history and the psyche of "Northern" people. Why do some places feel 'northern'? Peter Davidson writes with an incredible sense of place in the North-east of Scotland."--Aberdeen Evening Express

"The nearer he gets to the North of England and Scotland the more deeply felt his writing becomes. . . . Marvellously sensitive."--"London Review of Books"

"A truly stunning assessment of the concept of ''north'' in literature, legend, history and the psyche of "Northern" people. Why do some places feel ''northern''? Peter Davidson writes with an incredible sense of place in the North-east of Scotland."--"Aberdeen Evening Express"

"Davidson is as interesting writing about snow sculptures and 17th-century paintings of the Arctic as he is about Auden, and his reading of the imaginary land of Zembla in Nabokov''s "Pale Fire" as an enternal, symbolic north is highly evocative...a lovely book"--" The Guardian"

"The charm of the book is its exhaustiveness, zooming into a variety of touchstones to show how they''ve influenced global culture in sly, often surprising ways. . . . "The Idea of North" is an exhausting book, but in the best sort of way. Davidson tackles so many different ideas about north-ness, both sympathetic and contradictory, that the writing accrues meaning and value as it goes along. . . . Davidson''s north is an enormous challenging land: humbling, shifting, austere, empty, fragile, desolate, desolating, marginal, authentic--a place, as Davidson perfectly puts it, forever suffused with ''absolute, difficult beauty.''"--"Ruminator"

"Provocative. . . . Davidson''s evocative prose and sensitive analyses of an impressive range of sources heighten the reader''s appreciation of the rich complexity of humanity''s imagined Norths."--"Times Higher Education Supplement" --Max Jones"Times Higher Education Supplement" (07/14/2006)

"Davidson''s style . . . achieves a lyrical elegance of phrase. . . . he achieves a marvel of descriptiveness that is moving as well as expressive of something irreducibly ''north'', yet universal."--"The Scotsman"--Tom Adair"The Scotsman" (02/26/2005)

"An interesting meditation."--"Times Literary Supplement"--Tom Shippey"Times Literary Supplement" (04/01/2005)

"What is the North? Although it's almost always that bit further from wherever you happen to be, Peter Davidson's new study manages to pin down its elusive cultural quality for long enough to offer new insights and lyrical evocations."--Richard Price"Scotland on Sunday" (01/16/2005)


Peter Davidson explores the topography of north as represented in images and literature, taking in Netherlandic winter paintings of the Renaissance, German Romantic landscapes, Scandinavian Biedermeyer and twentieth-century topographical painting and printmaking. The work of artists Andy Goldsworthy, Eric Ravilious and Ian Hamilton Finlay are examined, as well as the work of literary figures including W. H. Auden, Cecil Day-Lewis and John Buchan. He examines a bewildering diversity of mythologies and imaginings of north, including The Snow Queen; Scandinavian Sagas; ghost-stories; Moomintrolls, Arctic exploration; the fictitious snowy kingdoms of Zembla and Naboland; Nabokov's nostalgias; Baltic midsummer; rooms in winter light; compasses and star-stones; hoar-frost; ice and glass.

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3 April 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
4 people found this helpful
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2 April 2005
Format: Paperback
44 people found this helpful
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26 June 2015
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
23 June 2015
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
vera davis
5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars
29 June 2014 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
A. Hacker
5.0 out of 5 starsEssential North
16 June 2007 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
13 people found this helpful.

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