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Linda Parshall

Motion and Emotion in Hirschfeld’s Theory of Garden Art
(Theorie der Gartenkunst)

Linda Parshall

C. C. L. Hirschfeld (1742-1792), an influential authority on the art of gardening in continental Europe, invested his philosophical career in the theoretical and historical investigation of gardens. His goal was to validate garden design as the superior art form, and in doing so he accentuated the problem of mimesis, a concept at the center of eighteenth-century discussions of the various arts. In his sustained defense of the landscape artist he often celebrated the central role of movement in imitation and the ways in which this sets the garden apart. For Hirschfeld the crux of the issue resides in the phenomenon of motion and its aesthetic correlative, emotion. Like a painting, a garden affects us through our appreciation of color, composition, and content; and like a poetic text, a garden gains meaning by engaging us through time and evolving in itself as it does so. Thus, a garden experience entails a particularly rich interplay of elements at once absolute in their nature and mutable in their affect; this experience is at base intertextual. The vitality of movement, both actual and perceived, requires a participation, a reciprocity between subject and object that heightens the emotional effect. Hirschfeld found the garden’s ultimate purpose in its capacity to move us more powerfully than nature does, by subsuming physical movement into emotional experience.

Linda Parshall
is professor of german literature and language at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon. She was a fellow in Studies in Landscape Architecture at Dumbarton Oaks in 1999-2000, working on the gardens and landscape theory of the Prince of Pückler-Muskau. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of London in 1974 and has written on German literature--The Art of Narration in Wolfram’s “Parzival” and Albrecht’s “Jüngerer Titurel” (1981), Wernher der Gartenaere’s Helmbrecht (1987)--and Reformation-era art--Art and the Reformation: An Annotated Bibliography (1985). Her work in garden history includes “C.C.L. Hirschfeld’s Concept of the Garden in the German Enlightenment,” Journal of Garden History 13 (1993), and a forthcoming abridged edition and translation, C. C. L. Hirschfeld’s Theory of Garden Art (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming 2000).

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