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"A Meeting Place Between Man and Nature": Mysticism and the Modernist Garden

Hutchings, Rory Michael (2019) "A Meeting Place Between Man and Nature": Mysticism and the Modernist Garden. In: Botanical Modernisms, 17 Aug 2019, Monk's House, Rodmell, East Sussex. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:91139)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)

Abstract

The garden is, by definition, a cultivated space. The experience of “nature” in such spaces is different from that of nature “proper”, the woods, the sea, the hills whose spaces do not so readily offer up to interpretation in their organic and spontaneous development. The garden is ultimately a mediated space, what Nicki de Saint Phalle describes as ‘A meeting place between man and nature.’ Nature is produced through its conditioning and arrangement in the gentrified space of the garden, what lies beyond this space is thus conceived of as unruly and unreadable.

And yet, in the works of Virginia Woolf, we are offered a more subtle and intriguing interrelation of garden and “nature”. Woolf writes the garden not as the limit, but as a point of access to the “natural”. The experiences of Woolf’s characters in their gardens are both mystic and transcendental, reminiscent of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “transparent eyeball” or an even earlier tradition of the Romantic sublime. In none of Woolf’s works is this mystic communion between person and landscape more evident than her novel "The Waves" (1931), following the lives of six childhood friends as they grow up and apart from one another. Much of the novel’s “action” unfolds in the garden of their childhood home, a space itself encroached upon by vast woodlands and stamping beaches.

This paper will seek to explore Woolf’s construction of the garden space in The Waves and other works as a mystic site, from which nature is both produced and experienced by its human inhabitants and how these experiences of a “garden sublime” build a powerful eco-modernist sensibility.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: Virginia Woolf, Gardens, Mysticism, Modernism
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Rory Hutchings
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2021 10:35 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2021 10:49 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/91139 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Hutchings, Rory Michael: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7547-4137
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