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On Other Grounds: Gardening and Nationalism in Eighteenth Century England and France

On Other Grounds:  Gardening and Nationalism in Eighteenth Century England and F
Brigitte Weltman-Aron
Albany: State University of New York Press
Publication Date: 

paper, 190 p., $16.95

How the formal French garden style of Versailles during the latter half of the 18th century affected the natural English landscape movement, and vice versa, is the subject of this new volume in the Margins of Literature series of the State University of New York Press.

The author, an assistant professor of French at Memphis University, cites examples from the major authors of the period, including Voltaire, Newton, Descartes and Walpole, and from French treatises dating from the 1770s. From these sources, Ms. Weltman-Aron argues that there are links between landscape gardening, the formation of a national identity and nationalism in England and France. The author's painstaking research draws parallels between philosophical, political and aesthetic arguments of the time.

"French treatises define a landscape that should not only be pleasing to the eye, but involve all the senses, and represent cultural landmarks that reinforce man's participation in the spectacle and ensure the legibility of the landscape," maintains the author. However, the English claim that the emancipation of the garden implies the appropriation of the surrounding landscape. The English also deride the narrow focus of the French.

On Other Grounds demands careful reading. It is an important contribution to several fields of study, including French literature, 18th-century history and the philosophy of landscape architecture.

— Adele Kleine, Volunteer, Library, Chicago Botanic Garden, and contributing writer to Chicagoland Gardening magazine