Where Light in Darkness Lies: The Story of the Lighthouse (Hardcover)
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An illuminating history of both real-life lighthouses and the beacons of literature and art alike, shedding light on the multifaceted power of these liminal structures.
Suspended between sea and sky, battered by the waves and the wind, lighthouses mark the battle lines between the elements. They guard the boundaries between the solid human world and the primordial chaos of the waters; between stability and instability; between the known and the unknown. As such, they have a strange, universal appeal that few other manmade structures possess.
Engineered to draw the gaze of sailors, lighthouses have likewise long attracted the attention of soldiers and saints, artists and poets, novelists and filmmakers, colonizers and migrants, and, today more than ever, heritage tourists and developers. Their evocative locations, isolation, and resilience, have turned these structures into complex metaphors, magnets for stories. This book explores the rich story of the lighthouse in the human imagination.
About the Author
Veronica della Dora is professor of human geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her books include Mountain: Nature and Culture, also published by Reaktion Books.
"It’s a safe rule of thumb in cinema,’ the film critic Guy Lodge once wrote, ‘that nothing good happens in a lighthouse.’ In her intriguing account of our fascination with lighthouses through the centuries, Veronica della Dora provides plenty of evidence that he was right. Lighthouses may have often been symbols of hope and, literally, beacons of enlightenment. They have also had, as she points out, ‘a dark edge’. . . . Full of eye-opening information. . . . Today, nearly all lighthouses around the world are unmanned. They have lost some of their mystery but our fascination with them remains. They are, in della Dora’s words, ‘magnets for human thoughts and for the human imagination’. Her book goes some way towards explaining that fascination."
— Daily Mail
"Like every Venetian, cultural geographer della Dora has an intuitive understanding of the symbiosis between architecture and the sea, which is why Where Light in Darkness Lies: The Story of the Lighthouse is infused with a uniquely spiritual fervor. . . . Perfectly captures the surrealistic impact of these structures on the human heart and imagination."
— Weekend Australian
“Hauntingly beautiful, dazzlingly written, and brimming with amazing information, Where Light in Darkness Lies is brilliant on lighthouses as symbols of the human struggle for survival and meaning in the face of an ever-encroaching darkness. With her extraordinary eye for detail and evocatively poetic language, della Dora guides us effortlessly through history, geography, literature, religion, art, film, and, not least, actual lighthouses, changing the way we see and understand the world.”
— Maximos Constas, professor of Patristics and Orthodox spirituality, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
"A beautifully written and comprehensive tribute to lighthouses and their keepers! I enjoyed every word and recommend Where Light in Darkness Lies to lighthouse enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone looking for a thorough chronicle of an important chapter in maritime history."
— Elinor DeWire, author and historian
"Della Dora introduces us to the enduring symbolic life of the lighthouse, showing how this sentinel structure, designed to guard lives and ensure safe passage at sea, is invested with rich cultural meaning. Within the book’s penetrating beam are coastlines where land meets sea, imperial ambitions, and imaginary worlds, poetic and painterly arts, and deep feelings of spiritual faith."
— Hayden Lorimer, professor of human geography, University of Edinburgh