Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Miles Richardson


A walk through a garden is an immersion into a wealth of sensory and relational experiences of place. Plant varieties, color, texture, flowers, forms, pathways, light, benches, ornaments, and other experiential qualities of place work upon one's consciousness to draw one into intimate contact with the place "Emplacement" is this intimate, immersed engagement with a place, a process and state of being that erodes the boundaries we so often erect between self and environment. Traditional systematic forms of inquiry, based upon the Cartesian idea of an essential separation between object and subject, are not applicable to the study of emplacement because the detachment of such an inquiry destroys the existential sense of engagement central to emplacement Knowledge related to emplacement is poetic rather than Cartesian, an intimate kind of knowing that is more apprehending than comprehending. Existential phenomenology as a methodological approach discloses poetics of place and emplacement in selected American public gardens, addressing not only epistemology, but also poetic ontology, expression, and conceptualization. Poetic knowing is accompanied by an awareness of poetic being, poetic language, and the formation of concepts such as genius loci that avoid the consequences of object-subject reductions. Gardens are particularly poetic, since they are places we enter into intentionally and aesthetically. The pedestrian rate and a scale provide a poetic quality much different from the more prosaic world of busy lifestyle. Public gardens therefore serve as a workshop for the understanding and awareness of poetics and emplacement. According to their styles and to their natural and artistic content, gardens provide an abundance of poetic perceptions and impressions, such as a sense of spaciousness or intimacy, focused or dissipated attention, historical or cultural references, internal and external context, comprehensibility of orientation, qualities of movement through the garden, tactile experiences, or sensory and bodily involvement. These poetic qualities serve to create an experiential sense of place both unique and shared in the encounter with the garden.