COSMOS AND HEARTH by Yi-Fu Tuan

COSMOS AND HEARTH

A Cosmopolite's Viewpoint
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Can humans meld the desire for a cozy, immediate surrounding with the broadening aspects of cosmopolitanism? This is Tuan's (Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture, 1993, etc.) central question in a ranging, very personal study. Up front, Tuan stakes claim to his cosmopolitan leanings; for him they represent optimism, playfulness, inquisitiveness, opposition to dogma. Yet he also appreciates home and hearth and their gifts of nurturance and renewal, though he is troubled by the current trend toward particularism and the drumbeat of ethnic heritage--does not the typical movement of life tend from hearth to cosmos? The product of both a Chinese and American (and Australian and English) upbringing, Tuan penetrates both cultures to see how they have dealt with the attractions of home and horizon. In China Tuan finds strong pullings in both directions: cosmic harmony and Confucian humanity, an authoritarian heavenly order versus a chaotic heterogeneity on earth. In the US he samples both our worldly role as economic and military power, and the rise of ethnic and cultural aspirations that have a very close-quarters vision. From these deliberations, Tuan proposes his own version of high modernism (optimistic, playful, etc.) couched in front of a cosmopolitan hearth: Know your own place, but know other places as well, the differences contributing to self-awareness. Those many hearths, that self-awareness, yield the ultimate peace: the acceptance of our impermanence. Go forth, read widely, laugh, be open to life's mysterious workings, think, think, think--Tuan's credos are laudable and engagingly presented, but hardly earthshaking. Readers may wish a bit more spontaneity from Tuan, a man forever on the lookout to improve and elevate. Regarding sex, for instance, he wants to ``convert the raw throbs of the body into grand human passions,'' via literature. So what's wrong with a little unreconstructed raw throbbing?

Pub Date: March 15th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8166-2730-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1996