- Cityscapes of New Orleans by Richard Campanella
Campanella's scholarship, which largely focuses on the city of New Orleans, is compelling in its range, providing a model for those who wish to work across disciplinary boundaries seamlessly and substantively. In this collection, Campanella compiles seventy-four brief articles, most of them previously published, arranged topically in five sections that include thematic excursions across time and space designed to help readers understand the city and its distinctive twists and turns. The two strongest sections are "Architectural Geographies and the Built Environment" and "Disaster and Recovery," which puts the city's recent tribulations into a useful comparative context. According to Campanella, the book "has one primary goal, and this is spatial explanation—elucidating the why behind the where" (xiii). This book is recommended to anyone coming to New Orleans, whether for a weekend or a summer of intensive research, and certainly to any historian, geographer, literary scholar, or academic who is seeking inspiration from a writer who not only knows his stuff but also succeeds in sharing it.
Campanella has an impressive record of academic approbation, and was also named the 2018 king of Krewe du Vieux, a Mardi Gras organization with an annual parade that is both political and bawdy. The theme of this year's procession traded irreverently on the name of Campanella's book Bienville's Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans.1 Although this particular achievement may seem beside the point to some scholars, Cityscapes of New Orleans is testament not only to Campanella's practice of interdisciplinary methodologies; it also contains material accessible enough to explain how a geographer was able to earn an honor that in recent years had gone to well-known New Orleans musicians like Irma Thomas and Dr. John.
For anyone interested in New Orleans, Campanella's book is a useful guide full of surprises, even for those who think that they know the city well. For scholars who hope to communicate their work to audiences beyond the university, this collection provides an especially useful template for how to write for and to the public in a fashion that is clear, compelling, but never simplistic. Scholars can use this book both as a [End Page 511] resource and, in its quietly graceful way, as a well-rounded and clear-eyed tribute to, and primer about, the Crescent City.
1. Campanella, Bienville's Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans (Lafayette, 2008).