- Fleurs et jardins dans l'œuvre de George Sand
This work is the tenth volume in the "Révolutions et Romantismes" collection directed by Pascale Auraix-Jonchière and Gérard Loubinoux, published by Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand. It contains the proceedings of an international colloquium held in February 2004, at the Centre de Recherches Révolutionnaires et Romantiques at the Université Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand. It is an extraordinarily varied collection of 29 essays whose unifying theme is flowers and gardens in the works of George Sand. As the jacket cover states, the book is "une promenade à travers les jardins sandiens de Nohant à l'Italie." The reader can nearly smell the perfume of the flowers, the earth and the trees after perusing this dense collection of detailed studies devoted to the multitude of ways in which flowers and gardens function in many of George Sand's writings.
Despite the specificity of this theme, the range of approaches and subjects is extraordinarily diverse and defies summarizing. In fact, although the collection is organized into sections labeled according to approach, a researcher interested in discovering what these scholars have to say about a particular Sand work would have difficulty searching out specific information. An index to the volume would have been a very practical addition allowing better ease of access to the contents of the book. Most of the articles are devoted to various Sand novels as well as her autobiographical works such as Histoire de ma vie and Lettres d'un voyageur. Interestingly, a few articles study much less-known Sand writings such as her preface to Jules Néraud's La Botanique de l'enfance (reproduced in this volume as an annex to the article of Jean-Pierre Leduc-Adine, 310-11), her 1873 Impressions et Souvenirs, and her critique of Jules Michelet's writings on natural science such as L'Oiseau, L'Insecte, and La Montagne. [End Page 366]
The articles are organized into three sections: "Formes du jardin," "Fonctions du jardin," and "Langages floraux." The second of these sections is divided into two parts labeled "Fonctions politique et sociale du jardin," and "Fonctions narrative, poétique et métapoétique du jardin." The third section, "Langages floraux," which contains the largest number of articles, is arranged into three parts: "Autour de la botanique: poésie, science et philosophie du végétal," "Symbolique florale," and "Le langage des arts plastiques."
As the editors point out, flowers are a constant presence in Sand's life and works; her passion for them, evident throughout her life, is a reflection of the popularity of the cultivation of flowers, the interest in the art of the garden and in the relatively new field of botany that prevailed at the end of the 18th century and in the early 19th century. It is not surprising that Sand's creative imagination is expressed in terms of flora and nature. These scholars study the forms of the garden, represented as a closed or open space. They also study the social, political, narrative and poetic functions that the garden has in the Sand novel. Several articles examine Sand's use of scientific, poetic, and philosophic language in narratives depicting gardens and flowers.
From these studies one can identify a few recurring aspects of George Sand's vision of nature. For example, she has a predilection for the "jardin à l'anglaise" and "nature sauvage," favoring the natural as opposed to artificial cultivation of plants and flowers. Sand deplores man's destruction of nature and expresses concern for the natural environment. As Mary Rice-Defosse concludes in her article, Sand "prévoit le besoin de sauvegarder l'environnement naturel et le représente comme base de toute réforme sociale (140)."
Secondly, Sand's texts often reveal the influence that Jean-Jacques Rousseau had on her view of nature. The theme of "herborisation" is frequent in her writings as well as in her...