Myth, art, literature, film, and other discourses are replete with depictions of evil plants, salvific plants, and human-plant hybrids. In various ways, these representations intersect with “deep-rooted” insecurities about the place of human beings in the natural world, the relative viability of animalian motility and heterotrophy as evolutionary strategies, as well as the identity of organic life
as such. Plants surprise us by combining the appearance of harmlessness and familiarity with an underlying strangeness. The otherness of vegetal life poses a challenge to our ethical, philosophical, and existential categories and tests the limits of human empathy and imagination. At the same time, the resilience of plants, their adaptability, and their integration with their habitat are a perennial source of inspiration and wisdom.
Plants and Literature: Essays in Critical Plant Studies examines the manner in which literary texts and other cultural products express our multifaceted relationship with the vegetable kingdom. The range of perspectives brought to bear on the subject of plant life by the various authors and critics represented in this volume comprise a novel vision of ecological interdependence and stimulate a revitalized sensitivity to the relationships we share with our photosynthetic brethren.
The ascetic tradition, which begins in the desert, seeks an equilibrium which is a perfect balance of absence and presence. This is related to Heidegger’s notion of ‘dwelling poetically’ as a fundamental form of human life which has its origins, for the Western reader at least, in the literature of the Bible. In the desert, like Elijah, we encounter God, felt as a kind of homecoming. The ambivalences of the desert are caught in Jim Crace’s novel Quarantine, a revisiting of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. Finally, the desert is the Lord’s lost paradise garden, a place wholly other and yet entirely familiar — like home.
“Digging into the west: Tim Robinson’s Deep Landscapes” is a detailed exploration of Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage with the purpose of describing Robinson’s response to Aran Islands landscape and his efforts to map Inishmore, the largest of the islands. Robinson begins by drawing a traditional map though, when he finds such maps lacking in scope, he moves on to create a deep-map — one that includes the history, languages, folklore, and religious beliefs of the island and its people. His prose work is compared and contrasted to Synge’s The Aran Islands, the most famous modern work that examines the islands, and it is shown the degree to which Robinson has sought to revise Synge’s interpretation. This essay is underlined by the works of other writers and scholars who have written influential works on landscape — Declan Kiberd and William Least Heat-Moon, in particular.
This essay endeavours to account for the originality of Wordsworth’s early poems and their conception of landscape. This includes ascertaining what “the picturesque” may have meant for Wordsworth beyond his later repudiations of the notion, but also analysing his early poetry as resulting from a collision between “picturesque” and “georgic” influences and imperatives. Wordsworth’s later poetics of place thus appears as first emerging from the problems and contradictions of 18th century poetry and aesthetics.
Landscape in Heart of Darkness is neither realistic nor symbolic, but is better understood as a stage or a paradoxical threshold giving privileged access, through the flight of imagination, to the unmappable at the centre of any map. Whereas a landscape should be conceived of as an attempt at territorialisation — of which colonialism is a good example — the African landscape in Conrad’s novel emerges as a site both of inscription and de-territorialisation, testifying to what J. H. Miller sees as the atopical and Freud as the uncanny.
This paper will discuss the American poet Robert Creeley’s treatment of the concept of landscape in relation to his collaborative activity. Writing after observing his collaborators’ works Creeley deals with many artistic landscapes: on the one hand we will explore the very notion of “artistic landscape”; on the other hand we will analyze Creeley’s verbal response to the visual representations produced by his collaborators.
Robert Creeley and Alex Katz’s collaboration, Edges (1999), will be closely studied. In this particular case Creeley deals with both a natural landscape and someone else’s (Katz’s) representation of this same landscape. Inclusion and exclusion, present and past, abstraction and concreteness therefore alternate in his poem. Moreover, Creeley’s role as spectator will enable us to emphasize the distinction between seeing a landscape and seeing a representation of landscape. We will show how the difference dwells in the very notion of spectatorship.