How Horticultural Texts Employ the Imaginary

Auteur / Author: 
Sarah THELEN (Department of Cultural Studies, University of Dortmund, Allemagne)
Friday, August 26, 2011 - 10:45


“The garden has always been scripture and text, readable and intelligible sign of planning and designing thoughts”, as Müller asserts. Garden texts have always dealt with the imaginary quite like linguistic texts or visual arts. The English landscape garden strives to excite the imaginary to the same degree as a landscape painting; it employs horticultural means to cause the impression of a mythological, dateless landscape of fantasy. Pieces of modern garden architecture are inspired by abstract paintings or by minimalism, both of which function by omission, by leaving things undisclosed and unexplained. The realisations of aposiopesis are stunningly parallel to linguistic ones: Horticultural statements are begun, and left to be continued by the spectator’s imagination. A prevalent example is that of the garden path pretending to lead on somewhere, which is allegorised by trompe-l’oeils, wall mirrors, the disappearance of the path behind obstacles, etc. Such arrangements are like an address to the spectator: “The thought is supposed to be thought on, but the garden is not going to elucidate it to you any further”. Another way of attaining this effect is the so-called Ha-ha, which is designed not to interrupt the view from a garden or park into the surrounding landscape while maintaining a physical barrier, thus creating the illusion that the garden continues. Here, the interrupted horticultural statement is left to be completed by the landscape itself. Garden texts are so much kindred to linguistic texts that they even employ linguistic fragments: Many historical gardens work with halfly-vanished inscriptions, e.g. on pedestals of statues or elsewhere. Some less historical gardens even fake weather-worn, hardly readable and incomplete letters in order to make the reader guess about their meaning by adding his/her own knowledge and experience. These and more horticultural forms of aposiopesis will be presented in the paper.