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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  Environmental History

Consuming Landscapes What We See When We Drive and Why It Matters

By: Thomas Zeller(Author)
264 pages, 34 b/w photos, 2 b/w illustrations
Consuming Landscapes
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  • Consuming Landscapes ISBN: 9781421444826 Hardback Nov 2022 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £45.50
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

For better or worse, windshields have become a major frame for viewing the nonhuman world. The view from the road is one of the main ways in which we experience our environments. These vistas are the result of deliberate historical forces, and humans have shaped them as they simultaneously sought to be transformed by them. In Consuming Landscapes, Thomas Zeller explores how what we see while driving reflects how we view our societies and ourselves, the role that consumerism plays in our infrastructure, and ideas about reshaping the environment in the twentieth century.

Zeller breaks new ground by comparing the driving experience and the history of landscaped roads in the United States and Germany, two major automotive countries. He focuses specifically on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the United States and the German Alpine Road as case studies. When the automobile was still young, an early twentieth-century group of designers – landscape architects, civil engineers, and planners – sought to build scenic infrastructures, or roads that would immerse drivers in the landscapes that they were traversing. As more Americans and Europeans owned cars and drove them, however, they became less interested in enchanted views; safety became more important than beauty.

Clashes between designers and drivers resulted in different visions of landscapes made for automobiles. As strange as it may seem to twenty-first-century readers, many professionals in the early twentieth century envisioned cars and roads, if properly managed, as saviors of the environment. Consuming Landscapes illustrates how the meaning of infrastructures changed as a result of use and consumption. Such changes indicate a deep ambivalence toward the automobile and roads, prompting the question: can cars and roads bring us closer to nature while deeply altering it at the same time?


List of Illustrations
Introduction. Cars and Roads as Environmental Saviors
Chapter 1. Roads to Nature
Chapter 2. Roads to Power
Chapter 3. Roads in Place
Chapter 4. Roads out of Place
Epilogue. Landscape Taken for a Ride?

Customer Reviews


Thomas Zeller (COLLEGE PARK, MD) is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Driving Germany: The Landscape of the German Autobahn, 1930–1970 and the coeditor of The World beyond the Windshield: Roads and Landscapes in the United States and Europe.

By: Thomas Zeller(Author)
264 pages, 34 b/w photos, 2 b/w illustrations
Media reviews

"A strikingly original, international analysis of roadmindedness, of landscape ordered into scenery by roads designed to shape motorist aesthetic experience. This book will inaugurate a new era in landscape studies, but it is also an original contribution to social, engineering, and business history."
– John R. Stilgoe, Harvard University

"Profoundly researched and beautifully written. The flow and pacing of the author's prose unfolds like a scenic drive itself. Acutely aware of visuality and of the verticality and horizontality of space in the construction of some of the first scenic park- and motorways, Zeller elegantly weaves together the histories of transportation, mobility, landscape, and the environment."
– Sonja Dümpelmann, University of Pennsylvania, author of Seeing Trees: A History of Street Trees in New York City and Berlin

"In this well-illustrated, trailblazing work, Thomas Zeller tours the managed vistas of mid-twentieth century highway engineers. The Blue Ridge Parkway or German Alpine Road provided not rapid travel but transformative experiences of scenery. Construction demanded social control, yet modernist driving aesthetics prized challenges, deceleration, uncertainty, and surprise. Fasten your seatbelt!"
– David E. Nye, author of Conflicted American Landscapes and Seven Sublimes

"Thomas Zeller has written an important and imaginative book about "roadmindedness" and the forms it took in Germany and the US during the 1930s. Elegantly written and superbly illustrated, Consuming Landscapes offers major insights into the relationship between humans, technology, and the environment. I strongly recommend this compelling work."
– David Blackbourn, author of The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany

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