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Seeing Nature as a Dumb Machine: Sound, Civility and the English Landscape Garden, c.1700-1750

 Seeing Nature as a Dumb Machine 500x250

 Claude Lorrain, Apollo and the Muses on Mount Helion (1860)

Date: Friday 27 September 2013.
Time: 4.00pm.
Location: Room 202A, Learning and Innovation Building, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus.
Presenter: Dr Peter Denney (Griffith University).

All welcome.

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Abstract: This paper argues that the rise of politeness in eighteenth-century Britain contributed to a transformation in the dominant image of the land and the rural poor, from noisy to quiet.  Such a transformation was intimately related to a shift in the self-image of the gentleman from an agrarian warrior to an urbane citizen, leading to an attendant downgrading of the ethos of martial virtue.  But is was also deeply implicated in the privileging of vision over sound as a medium of perception and cognition, a development well exemplified by the emergence of that embodiment of modern politeness, the English landscape garden.  As this paper shows, the development of the landscape garden was indicative of the way in which the land came to be imagined as a silent landscape to be apprehended in exclusively visual terms. Over the course of the eighteenth century, seeing nature as a 'dumb machine', to quote Lord Shaftesbury, became an important index of civility, evidence of the successful refinement of the passions into manners.