A bridge between the imagined and the real

In poetry and fiction the controlling context is imagistic and metaphoric, and when we attempt to translate its meaning into everyday, practical language we all to often flatten the intricate, multidimensional structure of image, thought, and feeling; by reducing literary language to merely logical, discursive statements, we lose touch with precisely that affective power which is, after all, the distinctive property of literature—its reason for being. To name this difficulty, however, is to suggest why the present enterprise could be worthwhile. Because imaginative literature remains one of our most delicate and accurate means of joining ideas with emotions, public with private experience, I believe that it can provide insights into the relations between mind and environment which are unavailable elsewhere. I want to show that the literary landscape, properly understood, could help us in planning the future of the actual landscape. I do not propose, of course, that literary works can be made to yield a blueprint or, for that matter, any specific, tangible features of a physical plan. But I do believe that they can help us sort out, clarify, and reorder the principles which guide (or should guide) planners.

Leo Marx, “Pastoral Ideals and City Troubles,” in The Fitness of Man’s Environment (Smithsonian/Harper Colophon, 1968), pp. 121–122.

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