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Binocular Vision: The Politics of Representation in Birdwatching Field Guides (Critical Perspectives in the History of Environmental Design) Paperback – July 31, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: Critical Perspectives in the History of Environmental Design
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Univ. of Massachusetts Press (July 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558498869
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558498860
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,116,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Clearly and engagingly written, Binocular Vision is a work of impressive scope and subtlety that will make an important contribution to the growing field of environmental cultural studies. --Daniel J. Philippon

This book forced me to take a more critical look at field guides and what their role can and should be. And that made it very worth reading. --The Birder's Library

About the Author

Spencer Schaffner is assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

More About the Author

Spencer Schaffner writes about field guides and birdwatching. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kh on August 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading "Binocular Vision" and found it to be one of the more interesting books about birding I've yet encountered. It's not the typical feel-good story about birders and field guides, but a critical examination and set of questions about the topic.

The way the author weaves together stories about field guides and environmental activism, field guides and environmental pollution, and field guides and new technologies is really interesting. Although this book was obviously conceived and targeted at an academic audience more than at a general audience, it's nice that it can still reach a general audience.

If you don't have time to read the whole book, I'd recommend a couple of chapters in particular. First, one early chapter on field guides and highly altered landscapes is instructive in rethinking where to seek out birds, and second, there is a later chapter that critiques competitive birdwatching at hazardous waste/toxic sites. You don't usually think about birdwatching in places such as this--yet such places teem with birds.

There is a huge amount of thought-provoking stuff in this book that deals with the consequences of birdwatching and field guides, as it's a hobby that many of us enjoy but might not be all that thoughtful about--this book really makes you think about the hobby in a new way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Wright on September 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I encourage every birder to read and to ponder this important book. You'll find yourself alternately fascinated and infuriated, and continually inspired to think through these issues yourself.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Gregg on July 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is sort of a social history written by analyzing the text and images of bird books produced from the mid-19th- to the early 21st century. I thought it was a terrific idea when I read about it. I just finished the book and I didn't think it was very good. First, because the author is an English professor, a lot of analysis is that jargony sort of textual analysis that might be somebody's cup of tea but definitely isn't mine. Like eating celery, it is a lot of chewing and not much content (just my opinion). As an example of how much this book is from and for a particular academic discipline, at one point the author argues the case, as if making a new discovery, that books can be quite informative about their historical and cultural contexts if interpreted as artifacts. I'll just observe that while this might be a new idea to English majors, it isn't news to anthropologists. The book also suffers from too much argumentation without exposition, with a lot of the author's statements taking on a bit of a "he said, she said" kind of vibe. I'd have preferred a denser description of each of the bird books upon which the author's arguments rest. This would have been helped by more illustrations beyond the few gray, fuzzy ones provided. The thing that balked me most often was the criticism of bird books for being taxonomic...they make people see the world in artificial taxonomic divisions. The orderliness of the taxonomy and of the books' graphics themselves means we overlook dissonances in the environment. This is rich territory, with lots that could be said about the origin, meaning, and value of certain ways of looking at the world developed since the end of the Middle Ages.Read more ›
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