Professor Diana Spencer delivered her inaugural lecture at the University of Birmingham on 28 November 2016.

Can landscape ever be read from outside the frame? The idea of territory and the ethics of its ‘ownership’—bonds connecting peoples to particular places—continue to ignite passions. Territory is a quintessentially human construct, and one perspective on land is to take a position on its defining qualities relative to a point of view; from here, ‘landscape’ develops. 

With apologies to Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass (1871) neatly exposes the implications of my opening question, and the personal quality that has overlaid environmental engagement since classical antiquity. Landscape gains cultural value through mnemonic geographies, evocative soundscapes, and coincidences which cluster interestingly around certain sites. This lecture uses iconic case-studies in Ireland and Italy to exemplify how heavily indebted to the imaginary a topographic approach is.