Abysmal: A Critique of Cartographic Reason

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University of Chicago Press, Mar 15, 2010 - Science - 584 pages

People rely on reason to think about and navigate the abstract world of human relations in much the same way they rely on maps to study and traverse the physical world. Starting from that simple observation, renowned geographer Gunnar Olsson offers in Abysmal an astonishingly erudite critique of the way human thought and action have become deeply immersed in the rhetoric of cartography and how this cartographic reasoning allows the powerful to map out other people’s lives.

A spectacular reading of Western philosophy, religion, and mythology that draws on early maps and atlases, Plato, Kant, and Wittgenstein, Thomas Pynchon, Gilgamesh, and Marcel Duchamp, Abysmal is itself a minimalist guide to the terrain of Western culture. Olsson roams widely but always returns to the problems inherent in reason, to question the outdated assumptions and fixed ideas that thinking cartographically entails. A work of ambition, scope, and sharp wit, Abysmal will appeal to an eclectic audience—to geographers and cartographers, but also to anyone interested in the history of ideas, culture, and art.

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User Review  - Brior - LibraryThing

A remarkable book adressing nothing less than what it is to be human and how we try to find our way in a chaotic environment through language and maps. Not always an easy read, but always interesting ... Read full review

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Essential reading for a Fomenkoist. (Zinoviev could not dream quite this far ahead. This is a great stride forward.)

Contents

MAPPINGS
15
INSTRUMENTS
77
IMAGINATIONS
113
COLLATION
237
ATLAS
249
REQUIEM
365
MEMORIALS
439
Copyright

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Page 153 - My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way : anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them — as steps to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.
Page 118 - This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill ; cannot be good : — If ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth ? I am thane of Cawdor : If good, why do I yield to that suggestion...
Page 194 - For he saith to Moses; I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Page 119 - I have given suck, and know How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me : I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.
Page 188 - But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
Page 334 - I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life. Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets.
Page 188 - Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger...
Page 171 - I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Page 117 - Live you ? or are you aught That man may question ? You seem to understand me, By each at once her choppy finger laying Upon her skinny lips. — You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so.

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About the author (2010)

Gunnar Olsson is professor emeritus of geography at Uppsala University, Sweden. He is the author of ten books in Swedish and English.

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