Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 84, Number 3   Autumn 2021


Introduction: Moving Landscapes in the Transatlantic World
Stephen Bending, Jennifer Milam

OVER THE LAST FIFTY YEARS, some of the most compelling work on designed landscape on both sides of the Atlantic has focused on its symbolic power, on its ability to speak of nation and of national imaginings.1 Such histories of garden design, however, have also remained trapped within these imaginings of national landscapes and their geographies. This special issue explores the apparently "national" character of gardens in the context of their transatlantic connections during the long eighteenth century; here, we focus on shared cultures and outlooks, even as we recognize the powerful influence of local geographies and claims of national distinction. Central to this project is understanding designed landscape as constructed and contested by communities that defined themselves both by what they shared and by how they differed. Our aim is to explore the experiences of location and dislocation that might have played out on both sides of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world.

Disclosure and Unveiling of Nature in European and Early American Gardens
John Dixon Hunt

All landscape designs move—by pleasing people, or by enabling them to see the same materials in different ways in other places. One of the attributes of design is that it reveals the possibilities of the natural materials involved, a theme much taken up by Pierre Hadot's The Veil of Isis, here used to suggest some European models; but these models of unveiling changed when European design was adopted in America. Two Philadelphia gardenists, John Bartram and Francis Daniel Pastorius, are used to suggest the new ways in which nature was "unveiled" for a new population.

Production, Power, and the "Natural": Differences between English and American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century
Tom Williamson

Garden historians have often emphasized the divergent development of designed landscapes in America and England in the course of the eighteenth century. This essay argues that the extent of that divergence in the period before about 1760 has been exaggerated, largely as a consequence of misconceptions about the real nature of English gardens. Only after 1760 did landscape design on both sides of the Atlantic really follow different trajectories, for reasons that were essentially social and ideological in character.

A Transatlantic Dialogue: The Estate Landscape in Britain, the Caribbean, and North America in the Eighteenth Century
Jonathan Finch

This essay explores the contingent relationships between landownership and status in Britain, the Caribbean, and the East Coast of North America across the long eighteenth century. In Britain, where land was scarce, land was the measure of wealth and status, and the creation of landed estates bound the ruling elite together. As the global economy expanded, driven by colonialism, new relationships were embedded within very different cultural landscapes. In the Caribbean, plantation landscapes were high-risk investments that relied on enslaved labor to ensure returns on highly capitalized production. In America, the availability of land recast the relationship between improvement, landownership, and labor. Land played an important role in defining newfound freedoms increasingly at odds with coercion and enslavement.

"Without Partaking of the Follies of Luxury and Ostentation": Virtue, Nature, and the Human Presence at Mount Vernon
Joseph Manca

George Washington shaped his estate at Mount Vernon to indicate his moral position as an individual and as the leader of a new nation. He subscribed to the Scottish Enlightenment idea that the lure of luxury and the vice of ostentation were at the heart of personal ruin and the downfall of nations. In his landscape, he avoided luxury, and even removed or reduced human presence, including that of enslaved people. While Washington's descriptions emphasized Mount Vernon's rustic and unpretentious character, visitor accounts indicate that Washington's gardens achieved an elegance and fine sense of style, with a modesty and sobriety fitting the leader of a virtuous republic.

"The Last Polish of a Refined Nation": Philadelphia and Garden Art in the Atlantic World
Emily T. Cooperman

This essay explores notions and mechanisms of garden design in colonial and early national Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, addressing whether garden creators looked beyond the immediate region to conventions of design and design practice in the Atlantic world. Although the city was among the most prosperous and populous areas of settlement in the North American colonies by the mid-eighteenth century, information about Philadelphia gardens is remarkably slim, and thus we must contend with what this paucity conveys about them. Narratives of the inevitable progress of the garden creation process toward professionally designed, suburban landscape have tended to cast either a pejorative light on other processes or led to those processes and motives for them remaining unrecognized. In order to begin to develop other narratives of garden creation, this essay addresses the role of owners and garden-makers who differ from this model, looking at the religious ideas of early estate owners, the relationship between the British elite and garden owners, and the role of the earliest American garden artists and professional plantsmen.

Moving Landscapes to Saint-Domingue, Jamaica, and Ireland: Plantations, National Identity, and the Colonial Picturesque
Finola O'Kane

The traditional opposition between French and British landscapes—one the product of absolute monarchy, represented by Versailles; the other a marker of the ideals of a free parliament, encapsulated in the landscape garden—is well known. But how did the polarization of two national landscape types percolate down to their colonial possessions, particularly their highly exploitative landscapes? Maps, images, and the landscapes themselves indicate that the French colonial landscapes were more honest and unveiled than their British counterparts, whereas the ambivalence of Irish-Caribbean plantations to French and British narratives of landscape history may reveal an acutely paradigmatic interpretation of colonial space.

"A Reciprocal Exchange of the Productions of Nature": Plants and Place in France and America
Elizabeth Hyde

This essay explores the meaning of European plants in American gardens, and of American plants in French gardens, in the context of eighteenth-century French–American botanical exchange. Such exchanges, carried out in the Revolutionary Era, reveal Americans' eagerness to use plants to bring America into the intellectually and aesthetically cosmopolitan European cultural world as well as Europeans' simultaneous use of American plants to achieve colonial power in the world and to suit an aesthetic that communicated and reinforced that power. At the nexus of fashion, scientific curiosity, and geopolitics, transatlantic plants became potent vehicles of power.

The Transatlantic Garden in Philadelphia, ca. 1800
Therese O'Malley

Rembrandt Peale's Rubens Peale with a Geranium (1801) is a well-known and much-studied painting, but the story of the flowering plant Rubens Peale cradles opens a new avenue of research. Commonly known as the scarlet geranium, Pelargonium inquinans is indigenous to southern Africa; its prominence in this painting invites questions about non-native plants in late-colonial and early republican America. Much attention has been given to the Anglo-American passion for North American flora in the long eighteenth century. However, an increasing flow of plants from Africa, China, and Australia shifted botanical interest and horticultural taste, changing the character of garden-making permanently within the next few decades.

Landscape Vertigo
Jill H. Casid

Taking up the challenge of comprehending the history of gardening in the Atlantic world through the frame of "moving landscapes" demands that we confront the wake of the unfinished histories of transatlantic slavery, settler coloniality, and dispossession. Such a confrontation obliges us to reckon with the spectral violence of landscaping in the making of the Atlantic world, or what I call landscape vertigo. In understanding landscape vertigo not only as a matter of effects and affects but also as a call for praxis, I lay out four propositions for understanding landscaping as machine of necropower.

Gardens Fragmented
Rachel Crawford

The topos of the English cottage garden had become, by the end of the eighteenth century, a British ideal, its horticultural verbiage entwined in certain "traditional" georgic poems, though not those written by laborer poets. Garden fragments advanced an audience's proclivity to read georgics not merely as authentic, but unified, whereas their structure is founded on digression. The illusion of coherence is paradoxically maintained through juxtaposition and fragmentation, strategies reliant on readerly impulse to interpret georgic in terms of integration rather than assemblage; verse coheres because of grammatical tactics rather than internal logical strategy.