Line Dancing: An Atlas of Geography Curriculum and Poetic Possibilities – HURREN (CSS)

HURREN, Wanda. Line Dancing: An Atlas of Geography Curriculum and Poetic Possibilities. New York: Peter Lang, 2000.152p. Resenha de: DARLING, Linda Farr. Canadian Social Studies, v.36, n.1, 2002.

When Professor of Geography Derek Gregory began work on his landmark book on geography as discipline and more importantly, discourse, he tentatively called it, The Geographic Imagination. By the time he finished mapping human geography into contemporary social theory, he had changed the title to Geographic Imaginations, an explicit reference to the diversity of perspectives, positions, and subjectivities embodied in any study of human understandings of place, space, landscape, and self.

Although far smaller in scope and aim, Wanda Hurren’s exploration of geography and curriculum reflects a similar stance on multiple ways of coming to know the world. She is intrigued by the dance she sees between the words we write, the worlds we make and the ways we live in the world. Through a blend of curricular text, academic prose, images recalled from childhood, maps, field notes, and her own evocative poetry, Hurren presents us with illustrations of what it might mean to represent the world. Each page displays another move in her line dance, the constant mingling of the ways we discover, describe, and rediscover our various geographies.

Line Dancing can be read on several levels and for different purposes. As a study of locatedness it may be useful to social studies teachers who are exploring with their students the politics of mapping, and the possibilities for teaching place from the inside out and from the ground up. Who is left off the map? can be seen as the natural follow-up to, Whose story is omitted from the text? Juxtaposing geography learning outcomes with a poetic portrait of place may startle, but it should provoke a question or two about why we teach what we teach. Feminist geographers have helped us look closely at landscapes seldom reproduced in school texts, and rarely represented by the creations of colonial cartographers. Hurren, too, helps us see beyond what is present on the page, and leads us instead to the spaces between the lines. One poem, placed underneath a spidery map of Canada with dots for population centres, speaks of growing up in a territory where, unlike the dot dwellers we lived in unedited space a dotless territory on the map full of wind and gravel roads and sun and in our sky jet streams left wispy lines playing their game of connect the dots (p. 108).

Second, as a self-conscious examination of text, Line Dancing also speaks to curriculum theorists and other academics continually drawn into dialogues about representation. The author’s own intellectual journey is conveyed by way of rambling field notes (her travel journal entries) and the snatches and passages that record her encounters with curriculum theory, literary criticism, hermeneutics, and more. Italicized quotes from philosophers, poets, linguists or geographers, often run along the bottom of the page. Font styles and sizes change, and lines and boxes appear and disappear throughout as travel entries are paired with classroom lessons, free verse or footnotes.

Finally, as a playful and at the same time, candid exploration of language, poetics, and what Hurren herself might describe as a dance with poststructural semiotics, the atlas reflects a fresh and curious spirit. Geography is constituted through discursive practices, says Gregory. What can that mean for teaching and learning? asks Hurren. And perhaps more provocatively, What does that mean for living (in) the landscape? Occasionally frustrating, because it suggests more than explains, and muses more than argues, Line Dancing: An Atlas of Geography Curriculum and Poetic Possibilities, is nevertheless original, inventive, and never less than engaging.


Gregory, D. (1994) Geographic Imaginations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publisher, Inc.

Linda Farr Darling – University of British Columbia.

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