Nature: ch. 6-9

Ch. 6: Nature as Landscape

“aesthetic experience of nature … involves immersion rather than detachment. Whereas a piece of art is framed, nature is frameless and offers more scope for the individual imagination because it has not been deliberately created” (110)

I find this quote interesting, as it confronts the idea of a work of art being contained within a frame, something that has been challenged by artists since the abstract expressionist painters of the ’50s, namely Jackson Pollock. He created a space that gave the illusion of extending beyond the frame, which has been furthered in the years since.

In thinking about the idealized landscapes that national parks seek to portray, I’ve thought of them as similar to museums — an experience that has been designed for visual and cultural pleasure, endlessly manicured for human pleasure. Moreover, the idea that objects in a museum are valuable, and cannot be touched or tampered with also resonates in thinking of how we are told to treat nature. It has become valuable once more because we’ve turned it into a rarity.

  • picturesque: taken from landscape art and referred to a scene’s potential for framing (132)
  • amenity: term derives from Latin amoenitas, meaning the aesthetic and sensory pleasures of country living (114)

Coates talks about how the countryside became an amenity for the wealthy, placing its cultural associations with that of class. Honing in on the “rustic” nature of the country as as a relief from the bustling, industrialized world also founded interest in gardens, varying in style between English and French. Even before Coates references Versaille, I was thinking about it, and the statement Louise XVI was making, in asserting dominance and control over something as unruly as nature.


This idea of cultural associations trumping nature itself is evident throughout the book, as we’ve continually restamped nature in various capacities to suit our own needs. The stylistic period associated with Louise XVI’s reign is called Rococo, a word that combines rocaille, meaning tiny stones, and coquilles, or shells, both of which were used as ornamentation within gardens, specifically grottoes.

“Corrupt Culture, Innocent Nature” (128)

In response to the control asserted over nature came the Romantics, who questioned the “Age of Reason” and quantified themselves and their connection to nature through emotion.

  • Transcendentalism, seeking a spiritual and higher meaning through nature, seeking to evoke a higher presence much the way early religious art did, sought to unite man with nature, to go to the source

“Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”, Caspar David Friedrich

  • evoke this idea of Man vs. Nature, nature as a spiritual force, reflects individualism that emerged with modernism in the West, experienced through the artist himself, dictates the viewers experience.

Man Made Ideologies

“capitalism and socialism a distraction for this deflected attention from the fundamental problem – industrial ethos and mod of production they shared” (153)

  • idea that capitalism has caused mass detriment, Coates points out the obvious correlation between “environmental losses and the rise of capitalism” (154)
  • corrects the idea that “human greed” has accounted for the negative impact we’ve induced, as it generalizes a much more complex system that confronts class, as well as geographic location as central to framing whose to blame

“Age of Reason has generated a scientific, technological, and economic system that benefited only a few and desacralized nature” (153)

Speaks to the idea that Max Liboiron talked about, which is the fact that science is a culture in of itself. We’ve come to abide by an ideology that is human-generated, moving further away from nature as a source of reason, and using it for our advantage on a massive scale. If anything, these chapters have brought to light how nature is just a facet of culture, accomodating and supporting it when applicable.

These ideas come to a head in the subsequent sentence…

“The disturbing degree to which the relations of man and nature had been corrupted by western civilization was suggested … by the boy who looked up at the sky and asked, “Daddy, what is the moon supposed to advertise?””(153)

Again bringing to light how tied up our world views are in relation to capitalism, and its far-reaching effects. The contemporary views we shape on seemingly objective concepts never really are, and haven’t been for centuries. In many ways our modern interactions with nature speak to the idea that we have trumped it, and control it to the point where it evokes certain emotions — premeditated and perpetuated through experience. Of course, these are attitudes are most often spread via a hegemonic voice, the same ones that often profit from the ill-effects of the environment.

  • Makes the individual blame harder to take responsibility for, but also admits that we are merely cogs in a machine, contributing to the mass profit and waiting idly for that wealth to trickle down

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