Back to Nature
The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance
Publication Year: 2011
Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title
Sweeping across scholarly disciplines, Back to Nature shows that, from the moment of their conception, modern ecological and epistemological anxieties were conjoined twins. Urbanization, capitalism, Protestantism, colonialism, revived Skepticism, empirical science, and optical technologies conspired to alienate people from both the earth and reality itself in the seventeenth century. Literary and visual arts explored the resulting cultural wounds, expressing the pain and proposing some ingenious cures. The stakes, Robert N. Watson demonstrates, were huge.
Shakespeare's comedies, Marvell's pastoral lyrics, Traherne's visionary Centuries, and Dutch painting all illuminate a fierce submerged debate about what love of nature has to do with perception of reality.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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Part I: Introduction: The Green and the Real
1 Ecology, Epistemology, and Empiricism
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...ismThis book is the offspring of two seemingly incompatible parents:one a desire to bring ecological advocacy into the realm of Renaissance litera-ture (where it has usually been deemed irrelevant at best), the other a desire toarticulate the intricate philosophical ironies of Shakespeare’s As You Like It,Marvell’s “Mower” poems, and seventeenth-century Dutch painting. Theywere brought together by a discovery that what looks to modern eyes like early...
2 Theology, Semiotics, and Literature
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Though it was spoken in a different vocabulary from that of deism or atomism,let alone environmentalism or quantum physics, the question of whether mattercould itself be God, or God could be matter, was not at all foreign to Renaissanceculture. The clearest analogue to the problem I have been sketching—indeed,the form in which it is most openly and extensively discussed—is the bitter Re-...
Part II: Paradoxes: Alienation from Nature in English Literature
3 As You Liken It: Simile in the Forest
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...tthem rule over the fish of the sea, and over the foule of the heaven, and overA Similitude is a likenesse when two thinges, or more then two, are socompared and resembled together, that they both in some one propertie seemelike. Oftentimes brute Beastes, and thinges that have no life, minister greatmatter in this behalfe. Therefore, those that delite to prove thinges by...
4 Shades of Green: Marvell's Garden and the Mowers
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Like many Renaissance dialogues, this chapter invites you to stroll through agarden and the fields around it, contemplating some lovely but nettlesomequestions. Fortunately, we have Andrew Marvell along, opening “The Garden”with a praise of rustic simplicity and a corresponding renouncement of second-Yet—like the irrepressible “serpent old” in “The Coronet”—puns have infiltrated,...
Part III: Reformations: Protestant Politics, Poetics, and Paintings
5 Metaphysical and Cavalier Styles of Consciousness
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The same Andrew Marvell who so mesmerizingly walked the tightrope betweensolipsist/subjectivist and materialist/objectivist views of the universe walked,with no less amazing skill, the tightrope between the Puritan revolutionariesand the Royalist forces. This may be more than a mere coincidence. The con-flicting ontologies—one that deemed the essential reality the one created within...
6 The Retreat of God, the Passions of Nature, and the Objects of Dutch Painting
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In religion the Dutch were Protestants, an important matter, and toProtestantism alone the important thing is to get a sure footing in the prose oflife, to make it absolutely valid in itself independent of religious associations.The conclusion is that one should paint or represent nothing except what isvisibly apparent, and that the majesty of God, which cannot be seen by the...
7 Nature in Two Dimensions: Perspective and Presence in Ryckaert, Vermeer, and Others
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The suggestion that “It was Kepler who for the first time turned away from theworld to a representation of it, to the picture of it on the retina”1 should remindus that technical developments could unsettle both individual subjectivity anduniversal beliefs. Understanding the perceiver was essential to understandingexternal reality, but it also marked the barriers between them. If the mind re-...
Part IV: Solutions: The Consolations of Mediation
8 Metal and Flesh in The Merchant of Venice: Shining Substitutes and Approximate Values
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By taking the supernatural out of the perceptible world, Dutch art paradoxicallysanctified that world. When iconoclasm forced artistic energies into new channels,the Christian culture’s piteous response to its martyrs was redirected or re-cathected onto humanity’s victims throughout the ecosystem—much as (accord-ing to Max Weber’s controversial theory) the penitential exertions formerly...
9 Thomas Traherne: The World as Present
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...ntThe Sun in your Ey, is as much to you as the Sun in the Heavens. for by this,the other is Enjoyed. It would shine on all Rivers Trees and Beasts, in vain toyou, could you not think upon it....The World within you is an offeringreturned....For GOD hath made you able to Creat Worlds in your ownmind, which are more Precious unto Him then those which He Created....aThought of the World, or the World in a Thought is more Excellent then the...
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Ted Hughes has asserted that “The story of the mind exiled fromNature is the story of Western Man.”1 This book has been describing the late Re-naissance as a particularly tense chapter in those paired stories: a cliff-hanger inwhich the terrified collective mind of Western Europe clings tighter than ever tothe outer face of the natural world, knowing that the surface is slippery and...
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...,Stephen Dickey, Robert Dorit, Bonnie Foote, William T. Hendel, David Kunzle,Margaret Lamont, Lilian Lee, Margaret Maurer, Russ McDonald, Claire McEach-ern, Ruth Morse, Anne Myers, Kris Pangburn, William Phelan, Holly CrawfordPickett, Jonathan Post, Alan Roper, Michael Salzman, Chris Sellin, DeboraShuger, Julia Sue Wai, Barbara Bellow Watson, and Dana Cairns Watson....
Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 51 illus.
Publication Year: 2011