Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition

Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition Robert Pogue Harrison
  • Title: Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition
  • Author: Robert Pogue Harrison
  • ISBN: 9780226317892
  • Page: 288
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition Robert Pogue Harrison Gardens An Essay on the Human Condition Humans have long turned to gardens both real and imaginary for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them Those gardens may be as far away from everyday reality as Gilgamesh s garden of
    Humans have long turned to gardens both real and imaginary for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them Those gardens may be as far away from everyday reality as Gilgamesh s garden of the gods or as near as our own backyard, but in their very conception and the marks they bear of human care and cultivation, gardens stand as restorative, nourishing, necessaHumans have long turned to gardens both real and imaginary for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them Those gardens may be as far away from everyday reality as Gilgamesh s garden of the gods or as near as our own backyard, but in their very conception and the marks they bear of human care and cultivation, gardens stand as restorative, nourishing, necessary havens.With Gardens, Robert Pogue Harrison graces readers with a thoughtful, wide ranging examination of the many ways gardens evoke the human condition Moving from from the gardens of ancient philosophers to the gardens of homeless people in contemporary New York, he shows how, again and again, the garden has served as a check against the destruction and losses of history The ancients, explains Harrison, viewed gardens as both a model and a location for the laborious self cultivation and self improvement that are essential to serenity and enlightenment, an association that has continued throughout the ages The Bible and Qur an Plato s Academy and Epicurus s Garden School Zen rock and Islamic carpet gardens Boccaccio, Rihaku, Capek, Cao Xueqin, Italo Calvino, Ariosto, Michel Tournier, and Hannah Arendt all come into play as this work explores the ways in which the concept and reality of the garden has informed human thinking about mortality, order, and power.Alive with the echoes and arguments of Western thought, Gardens is a fitting continuation of the intellectual journeys of Harrison s earlier classics, Forests and The Dominion of the Dead Voltaire famously urged us to cultivate our gardens with this compelling volume, Robert Pogue Harrison reminds us of the nature of that responsibility and its enduring importance to humanity.
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    556 Comments


    1. It would be hard to imagine anybody less interested in gardens than I am, so the effect this book had on me was quite a surprise I recently saw a review of a new Dante translation in the NY Review of Books, a review written by Harrison, that was so incisive and clearly written that I decided to look up one of his own books He holds the chair in Italian literature at Stanford, and I expected this to be pretty much a lit crit summary of the meaning of gardens in western literature It slides that w [...]

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    2. A pleasure, for sure.It brought to mind many other gardens, a few of which I wish had been explored a bit The Secret Garden, Alice s Garden of Live Flowers in Wonderland, Saki s The Occasional Garden, the Merchant s Tale from Chaucer, the contagious toxicity of Rappaccini s nearly chlorophyll filled Daughter I wonder what Harrison would have done with that , even the coquettish flower on The Little Prince s home planet.Harrison almost complained about his book s need for Louis XIV and the Garden [...]

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    3. Giardini un saggio talmente ricco di riferimenti, omaggi e citazioni letterarie, filosofiche, storiche da renderlo difficile da classificare Non a caso la parola cultura affonda le sue radici nella terra Il sottotitolo Riflessioni sulla condizione umana chiarisce subito che non si parla di giardini in termini botanici o naturalistici, ma chiamarlo saggio sembra alla fine riduttivo.I giardini sono la metafora ideale per comprendere l evoluzione dell uomo fino alla follia dell et contemporanea, co [...]

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    4. Drawing from numerous literary sources, this Stanford professor explores the meanings of gardens and what they represent in the relationship of humans with culture and with each other as well as the natural world Most of the book is wonderful, diverging into topics such as creativity, caretaking, education, and seeing Up until the last three chapters I highly recommend the essay However, the author s thinking gets very muddled at the end He uses one source, Orlando Furioso, as evidence to draw c [...]

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    5. Understanding Pogue requires literary and philosophical knowledge than I possess so I found it best to re read selected chapters of this wise book The theme is expressed in the title of the first chapter, The Vocation of Care Pogue is looking not so much at gardens as at the human responses to them, and how various gardens from Versailles to the gardens of the homeless, reflect the spirit of their times Gardens to him are symbolic, but they are also a call to action, in the earth and in our liv [...]

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    6. I teach World Literature, and it amazing how the motif of the garden appears in literary texts from all cultures I listen to Professor Harrison s podcasts called Entitled Opinions where he interviews many of his colleagues and guest lecturers from the Humanities department at Stanford As a professor of Italian, it makes perfect sense that he would be alert to the setting of the garden since the storytellers of the Decameron congregate in this environment to give themselves a temporary reprieve f [...]

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    7. Harrison s wide ranging exploration of the concept of garden, how it has changed through time and across cultural divides, and how it relates to the human condition makes fascinating reading Although some chapters took tangents that made them seem refugees from another book rather than elucidations of the main theme, I followed the author through the labyrinth, including the appendices, notes, and bibliography I often found myself pausing to think about what I had read or mentally constructing a [...]

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    8. I love Harrison s longtime podcast, Entitled Opinions, which takes on a wide variety of topics with the help of skillful guests and the very eloquent host, Harrison I ordered this book based on appreciation for his way of thinking, and was not disappointed Gardens is a collection of essays clustered around a theme In it, he explores a great range of literature referring to the title subject, some of which I knew but much of which I didn t Eden shows up early and holds a central place in the disc [...]

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    9. I m only about half way through this remarkable book, but am thoroughly smitten by the way Robert Pogue Harrison thinks His task, it seems to me, is to understand how gardens, hardly necessary for human survival, have become so important to us culturally To accomplish this, he quotes the Bible, Gilgamesh, Wallace Stevens, a Czech writer, Stendahl The reader can see how gardens have saturated our literature culture Each chapter is organized around a facet of gardens like Edenic ones or like the a [...]

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    10. Most of Gardens is an idiosyncratic stroll through some literary gardens Plato s Academy, Epicurean thought, Bocaccio s Decameron, as well as inspiration from contemporary urban gardens The book was most exciting for me in the chapters comparing the Islamic paradise to the Christian, and in that summarizing Orlando Furioso These present the idea that modern Western man fears serenity as boredom, passivity, indifference and has an innate restlessness and longing for drama and heroism This seems a [...]

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    11. An interesting read, not so much about the function of gardens throughout history, as it is a treatise on the human condition From the gardens of ancient civilizations to modern edifices, the author embraces the belief that the garden was a touch stone against the losses that humanity has endured throughout the centuries Some of these gardens will be instantly recognizable, while others will come to life in your imagination Cultivating one s garden seems a rather simple endeavour and with the au [...]

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    12. An enlightening concept that helped me think about the effect of humans on the environment, and the necessity of the garden to the human psyche In our world that is becoming aware of global climate change, and the affects of our actions on the earth, when we respond with sustainable technologies and gadgets, it is so easy to forget about the garden as a crucial part of being human Some thoughts, for example, the author s take on the Garden of Eden, are misguided and ill informed, in my opinion [...]

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    13. Another fine meditation and critical study of man s relationship to nature, this time through the lens of the garden From the Garden of Eden, to Japanese zen gardens, to manicured formal gardens, to tiny spaces in homeless encampments, Robert Pogue Harrison explores mankind s need for gardens their importance as quiet spaces in which we can relate to nature on a human scale, as retreats for quieting and refilling the spirit, as sources of literary and romantic inspiration, as windows into biolog [...]

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    14. This is not a book about gardening, but how the importance of gardens in religion, mythology and religion points to an essential human characteristic the need to give care He speaks about many gardens and cites many literary sources from Gilgamesh, Genesis, Odyssey, Dante s Inferno and Bocaccio s Decameron Interesting is his take on the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, which he attributes to Eve s need for a life of care, while the Garden of Eden was carefree

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    15. I give it 4 stars because it is extremely thought provoking It is essentially a serious evaluation of mortality and death He challenges immortality as fundamentally undesirable and unhuman Though I think a critical error is his equivocation about Eden, Christian afterlife, other immortalities Adam was put in the garden to work, and Eve was put there to help him work, which really strains his understanding of Eden as a mindless and effortless enjoyment of pleasures.

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    16. Reading this book is like walking through a many roomed garden It imparts some of the same kind of serenity and space for reflection In courageous and venerable humanistic tradition, Pogue writes a book meant to transform his readers At its best, the essays offer concise but penetrating insights on Ariosto, care , though sometimes the concision makes for a reductive summing up.

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    17. An intriguing essay on who we are, as depicted in real, imaginary, historical, mythological, and literary gardens Why did Eve loathe Eden Why did Odysseus leave Circe Why didn t Ariosto s knights find fulfillment Are gardens of sand a paradise found or lost Do you love y our garden Rich in exploration of such ideas, this is a fascinating, thought provoking book.

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    18. Although this book reads, at times, like a Master s thesis, the ideas it contains are very suggestive and beautiful It points to many lovely primary texts Capek and Calvino, etc and will give voice to many gardeners at least a part of their motivation.

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    19. As a horticulturist I thought it was about gardens and it is but it is about the literature of gardens An excellent book by a true lover of language and literature Check out his Entitled Opinions radio show.

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    20. True work of philosophy Held my attention through the first half Covers many garden stories from antiquity.

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    21. ohmygosh i LOVE this book it gives me a grounding and a context for my uber post modern anxiety thank goodness i read this book now i shall study it.

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    22. One of the most lyrical, lovely and persuasive arguments I have ever read.

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