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EARTH PERFECT? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden

edited collection and symposium - Spring 2013 (FLLT, ANTH, ART, ARTH, CMCS, CHAD, FASH, ANTH, ENGL, DENIN, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Longwood Gardens, DE Center for Horticulture, University of Maine, International Society for Utopian Studies.
[ Visit the EARTH PERFECT? Symposium web site ]

Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden is an eclectic, yet rigorous reflection on the relation between humanity and the garden. Through the lens of utopian studies, the interdisciplinary field that addresses the human drive towards the ideal, Earth Perfect? brings together inspiring essays by foremost writers from the fields of architecture, history of art, classics, cultural studies, farming, geography, horticulture, landscape architecture, law, literature, philosophy, urban planning, and the natural sciences.

Through these joined voices, the garden emerges as a site of contestation and a repository for symbolic, spiritual, social, political, and ecological meaning. Questions such as: "What is the role of the garden in defining humanity's ideal relationship with nature?" and "How should we garden in the face of catastrophic ecological decline?" are addressed through wide-ranging case studies, including ancient Roman gardens in Pompeii, Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, the gardens of Versailles, organic farming in New England, Bohemia's secret gardens, and landscape in contemporary architecture.

Issues relating to the utopian garden are explored thematically rather than chronologically, and organized in six sections: "Being in Nature," "Inscribing the Garden," "Green/House," "The Garden Politic," "Economies of the Garden," and "How Then Shall We Garden?"

This lushly illustrated, 303-page volume is published by Black Dog Publishing, London (2012) and available from booksellers worldwide including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Black Dog publishing itself ().

Book contributors:

Editors and Essay Authors

Annette Giesecke is Professor of Classics and Chair of Ancient Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Delaware. With a background in the art and literature of the classical world, she has written on a variety of subjects ranging from Epicurean philosophy and the poetry of Homer and Virgil to ancient attitudes towards the natural environment. She is author of The Epic City: Urbanism, Utopia, and the Garden in Ancient Greece and Rome (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Naomi Jacobs is Professor of English and Chair of the English Department at the University of Maine. She is past president of the Society for Utopian Studies, and was founding member of the Advisory Board and Editorial Committee to the journal Utopian Studies. Professor Jacobs is the author of The Character of Truth: Historical Figures in Contemporary Fiction as well as of many articles on utopian and dystopian writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including William Morris, George Orwell, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Octavia Butler.

Essay Authors

Jennifer Atkinson is Lecturer in American Studies and Environmental Studies in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences program at the University of Washington, Bothell. Her article on gardens in literary utopias, "Seeds of Change," won the Society for Utopian Studies' Arthur O. Lewis Award for the best paper from an untenured scholar.

David Bell is an architect and Director of Undergraduate Architecture Programs at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He has written essays on a variety of theoretical concerns in architecture and the arts. His most recent work has addressed issues from a dialectical analysis of the architecture and criticism of Adolf Loos to a comparison of the works of Marcel Ducham with the conceptual foundations of quantum physics.

Irus Braverman is Associate Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of Geography at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Her unique interest in law, landscape, and the politics of planting is reflected in her book Planted Flags: Trees, Land, and Law in Israel/Palestine (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Poet and critic Steven Brown is a doctoral student in the field of American utopianism at Harvard University. His poems have been published with ten silver gelatin prints by Jerry Uelsmann as Moth and Bonelight, a limited edition from 21st Editions.

Environmental artist U We Claus collaborated with iconic twentieth century artist Joseph Beuys on projects such as 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) and Piantagione Paradise (Planting Paradise) in Bolognano, Italy. He is the creator of the Sommer Berger Garden in Amorbach, Germany. The garden, which was awarded the status of Geotop of the UNESCO Geo-Naturepark Bergstrasse Odenwald, became the subject of his film The Way Up Is the Way Down.

David E. Cooper, is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Durham. His extensive writings on the history of Eastern and Western philosophy, environmental ethics, the philosophy of language, and aesthetics include A Philosophy of Gardens (Oxford University Press, 2005) and the co-authored Buddhism, Virtue and Environment (Ashgate, 2005).

Architect and theorist Donald Dunham is Assistant Professor of Architecture in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment, Philadelphia University. His published projects include "Modulating a Dialogue between Architecture and Nature," in J. Gauer, ed. The New American Dream: Living Well in Small Homes (Monacelli, 2004), and "Inclusivity, Objectivity, and the Ideal: The Museum as Utopian Space", which received the 2011 International Award of Excellence from the Journal of the Inclusive Museum.

Stephen Forbes is Director of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide, South Australia. His diverse interests include landscape management, urban nature conservation, and "placemaking" in the interest of health and wellbeing. Recent papers exploring the role of botanic gardens in social innovation include: "How botanic gardens changed the world," "The audacity of man and the economy of nature," and "Science & policy: valuing framing, language & listening."

Founder of the Delft School of Design, Arie Graafland is Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Chair of Architecture and Professor of Architecture Theory at the Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. Widely published in the field of architectural theory, he is editor of the Delft School of Design Series on Architecture and Urbanism with 010 Publishers.

Dennis Hardy is Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning and Utopian History at, as well as former Pro Vice Chancellor of, Middlesex University. His books include From Garden Cities to New Towns, From New Towns to Green Politics (Spon, 1991), Utopian England: Community Experiments, 1900-1945 (Spon, 1991), and Cities that Don't Cost the Earth (TCPA 2008).

Philosopher, aesthetician, and poet Patrick Healy is Lecturer at the Delft School of Design, Delft University of Technology, and Professor of Interdisciplinary Research at the Free International University, Amsterdam. His recent publications include Images of Knowledge: an Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy of Science (SUN, Amsterdam, 2005) and The Model and its Architecture (010 Publishers, 2008).

Photographer and architectural historian Morna Livingston is Associate Professor of Environmental Design and Visual Studies at Philadelphia University. Specializing in ancient and medieval water systems as well cultural landscapes, her published works include Steps to Water: the ancient stepwells of India (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002) and La Foce: A Garden and Landscape in Tuscany, co-authored with Benedetta Origo, Laurie Olin, and John Dixon Hunt (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).

Lynda Schneekloth ASLA, is Professor Emeritus of the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Her scholarly research is focused on the idea of placemaking, that is, how people transform the world, including natural processes and built form. She is author of Placemaking: The Art and Practice of Building Communities with R. Shibley; Olmsted in Buffalo and Niagara with R. Shibley and T. Yots; and co-editor of Ordering Spaces: Types in Architecture and Design with K. Franck.

Douglas W. Tallamy is Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and Director for the Center for Managed Ecosystems at the University of Delaware. He is also author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens (Timber Press 2007, 2nd edition 2009).

Susan Willis is Associate Professor in the Literature Program at Duke University and proprietor of Bitta Blue Community Supported Agriculture in Killingworth, Connecticut. Her recent publications include "Forensics of Spinach, South Atlantic Quarterly 107.2(Fall, 2007).

EARTH PERFECT? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden is a four-day symposium showcasing the garden as an emblem of the ideal human relation with nature. The symposium is designed for an academic audience, garden professionals, as well as a general public interested in the importance and meaning of gardens.

Event Locations:

  • The University of Delaware
  • Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania
  • Winterthur Estate Gardens, Delaware
  • Chanticleer Garden, Pennsylvania
  • Mt. Cuba Center, Delaware