Distinctive representations of the symbiotic relationship between natural landscapes and people are reinforced through personal and socio-cultural contexts. Such representations can be brought about through travel, often renewing an individual’s relationships between real, imagined and remembered landscapes, also their identity. Alain de Botton’s non-fiction, multi-modal novel ‘The Art of Travel’ profoundly explores the personal and esoteric experiences of the sublime landscape facilitating the narrator’s augmented recognition of identity through the eclectic mix of artists and writers. Similarly, Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘How the old mountains drip with sunset’ (How mountains) explores nature’s overwhelming beauty as an influence on humanity through the narrator’s perceived image of the sunset. Although both texts provoke a profound understanding of an individual’s identity, their experience of landscape is diverse.
It is human nature for individuals to crave exploration of exotic landscapes that evoke a sense of appreciation in their monotonous lives that in turn, heighten their self-awareness. Through the distinctive representation of ‘The Exotic’ landscape in ‘The Art of Travel’, de Botton reveals his appreciation for beauty that landscapes provide through guides such as Gustave Flaubert to maintain the essay-like structure of the novel. Travel allows individuals to escape their mundane life as presented through de Botton’s portrayal of Gustave Flaubert, a highly educated French novelist who became attracted to the Orient. Flaubert’s need to flee his “sterile, banal and laborious” life, ultimately provides him with the ability to appreciate an exotic landscape as displayed through the listing of negative attributes of his current landscape. Flaubert continues with high modality in “dreamt of glory, love, laurels, journeys to the Orient” where the notion of travel provides a medium for his dreams and wishes to be satisfied. In this way, the landscape provides a medium for a heightened self-awareness. Correspondingly, Dickinson’s ‘How mountains’ explore nature’s alluring influence on humanity through the poem. The narrator’s speechlessness as she describes nature in awe through the repetition of “how” in the first stanza, demonstrates her amazement, appreciation and questioning of the beauty that nature provides. In “a Dome of Abyss is Bowing into Solitude”, Dickinson profoundly explores the personal and esoteric experiences through the eclectic allusion to artists and writers, revealing her acknowledgement for nature’s capacity to exceed the most skilful artists as nature can provide perspectives that art cannot. De Botton and Dickinson’s representation of the symbiotic relationship between exotic landscapes and people as well as its profound influence on identity goes beyond personal and socio-cultural contexts.
Individual experiences of nature present the ability to grasp insights into life and inevitably, enhance the understanding of their identity. De Botton’s representation ‘On the Country and City’ reveals that responders may become artists themselves as landscapes have the power to inspire and incite our imagination. Through the guide of William Wordsworth, he provides a romanticist perception of landscapes. “The poet proposed that Nature…was an indispensable corrective to the psychological damage inflicted by the city” as the high modal, negative language suggest that the city can coerce individuals to escape towards the country or somewhere that provides peace through nature’s beauty. This is further reflected in; the “natural scenes have the power to suggest certain values to us” where the personification of nature portray the impact that landscapes can have, resulting in our renewed relationships with others. Here, de Botton reveals that this exposure will lead us to change our identity as we travel from landscape to landscape, ultimately uncovering the profound influence on identity. Dickinson reveals in ‘How mountains’ that even the Italian painter Domenichino who was glorified for his use of colour was “paralysed” by nature’s awe, suggesting that nature may have been a prominent influence in shaping the sociocultural context of his era and his career. This further implies that paintings may fail to capture nature’s beauty while poems can. Dickinson additionally appreciates nature in the simile “Fire ebbs like Billows”, presenting the sun to slowly fade away, ultimately revealing how the sun can limit our view of the natural world, through her use of assonance. This highlights nature with the ability to dictate our lives and ultimately shape our identity. Furthermore, the personification of “how a small Dusk crawls on the Village” deonstrates the landscape as a living thing, emphasising a landscape’s ability to come alive to an individual and effect their perceptions. Thus, it is the personal and sociocultural contexts that characterise de Botton and Dickinson’s symbiotic relationship between landscapes and people to illuminate a profound influence on identity.
Both Alain de Botton’s ‘The Art of Travel’ and Emily Dickinson’s ‘How the old mountains drip with sunset’ portray a character’s liberation to explore the exotic and organic to ultimately, demonstrate an appreciation for the landscape around them. This presents individuals with an ability to escape their monotonous lives and experience a thorough understanding of their identity. Through the portrayal of these ideas and the distinctive representation of the symbiotic relationship between landscape and people, provide differing perspectives of landscape resulting in a profound identity.