Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Machine in the Garden

"...they depend altogether upon the Liberality of Nature, without endeavouring to improve its Gifts, by Art of Industry."

The Machine in the Garden, Leo Marx

'For over four decades, Leo Marx's work has focused on the relationship between technology and culture in 19th- and 20th-century America. His research helped to define--and continues to give depth to--the area of American studies concerned with the links between scientific and technological advances, and the way society and culture both determine these links. The Machine in the Garden fully examines the difference between the "pastoral" and "progressive" ideals which characterized early 19th-century American culture, and which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental and nuclear debates of contemporary society.'

A chapter on Gardens offers a perfect dissection of  the ambiguities and inner conflicts regarding the image of (here Virginia as, but in general) The Garden and the meaning men find, or bestow therein. On the one hand it represents the mythology in which the garden is a natural paradise, it "stands for the original unity, the all-sufficing beauty and abundance of the Edenic land of primitive splendor inhabited by noble savages." But then there is also the "actual, man-mad, cultivated piece of ground. This image is also an emblem of abundance, but it refers to abundance produced by work or, in Beverly's idiom, improvement." Marx tells us that even though Beverley (author of The History and Present State of Virginia) has uncovered this contradiction, he is far from comprehending it. The threshold between the two is where my interest falls.

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