Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition

Paperback | September 15, 2009

byRobert Pogue Harrison

not yet rated|write a review

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, 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.

"I find myself completely besotted by a new book titled Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, by Robert Pogue Harrison. The author . . . is one of the very best cultural critics at work today. He is a man of deep learning, immense generosity of spirit, passionate curiosity and manifold rhetorical gifts."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

"This book is about gardens as a metaphor for the human condition. . . . Harrison draws freely and with brilliance from 5,000 years of Western literature and criticism, including works on philosophy and garden history. . . . He is a careful as well as an inspiring scholar."—Tom Turner, Times Higher Education

"When I was a student, my Cambridge supervisor said, in the Olympian tone characteristic of his kind, that the only living literary critics for whom he would sell his shirt were William Empson and G. Wilson Knight.  Having spent the subsequent 30 years in the febrile world of academic Lit. Crit. . . . I’m not sure that I’d sell my shirt for any living critic.  But if there had to be one, it would unquestionably be Robert Pogue Harrison, whose study Forests: The Shadow of Civilization, published in 1992, has the true quality of literature, not of criticism—it stays with you, like an amiable ghost, long after you read it.

“Though more modest in scope, this new book is similarly destined to become a classic. It has two principal heroes: the ancient philosopher Epicurus . . . and the wonderfully witty Czech writer Karel Capek, apropos of whom it is remarked that, whereas most people believe gardening to be a subset of life, ‘gardeners, including Capek, understand that life is a subset of gardening.’”—Jonathan Bate, The Spectator

Pricing and Purchase Info

$15.13 online
$19.50 list price (save 22%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25

From the Publisher

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 sta...

Robert Pogue Harrison is the Rosina Pierotti Professor of Italian Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of four books, including Forests: The Shadow of Civilization and The Dominion of the Dead, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

other books by Robert Pogue Harrison

Forests: The Shadow of Civilization
Forests: The Shadow of Civilization

Kobo ebook|May 8 2009

$26.29 online$34.12list price(save 22%)
Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age
Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age

Kobo ebook|Nov 21 2014

$17.19 online$22.31list price(save 22%)
The Dominion Of The Dead
The Dominion Of The Dead

Paperback|May 27 2005

$25.11

see all books by Robert Pogue Harrison
Format:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.7 inPublished:September 15, 2009Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226317900

ISBN - 13:9780226317908

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition

Reviews

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments                   
 
1          The Vocation of Care
2          Eve                 
3          The Human Gardener  
4          Homeless Gardens                   
5          “Mon jardin à moi”                  
6          Academos                   
7          The Garden School of Epicurus            
8          Boccaccio’s Garden Stories                 
9          Monastic, Republican, and Princely Gardens    
10        A Note on Versailles   
11        On the Lost Art of Seeing                    
12        Sympathetic Miracles   
13        The Paradise Divide: Islam and Christianity       
14        Men Not Destroyers 
15        The Paradox of the Age           
 
Epilogue          
Appendixes

1          From The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio    
2          From Mr. Palomar, Italo Calvino                    
3          “The Garden,” Andrew Marvell                       
4          A Note on Islamic Carpet Gardens      

Notes              
Works Cited               
Index

Editorial Reviews

"The Year's Best Nonfiction"