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Humbolt, Gran and Geo-poetics of the Altai

Keywords: Alexander von Humboldt , Johannes Gabriel Gran , Altai , Siberia , geo-poetics

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The Altai region of Siberia has held magnetic appeal for explorers and scientists down the centuries. Two of these explorers, Alexander von Humboldt(1769 1859) and Johannes Gabriel Gran (1882 1956), were especially gifted in yielding both geo-scientific and geo-poetic accounts of their surveys, Gran especially evoking a “geo-poetics” of the Altai, possibly inspired by Humboldt’s American journeys. Though their career trajectories spanned very different periodsand circumstances, these two scholars have bequeathed legacies of enduring value conceptually and substantively in bridging the worlds of science and humanities and revealing innovative insight into interactions of society and environment. As Humboldt eventually based the principles of his Cosmos on travels made earlier in life, so too Gran would later build on the experiences in Altai to develop his major theoretical work, Reine Geographie (1929). This paperdescribes the journeys through Altai of Humboldt and Gran , and somediscursive strategies used by both writers in yielding dynamic pictures of mountain landscapes and ways of life.


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