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book reviewsWe revere it we destroy it we deconstruct it PD Smith gets to grips with the natural world in books from Kenneth Olwig Nicholas Roe Onnon Oerlemans and Barbara T GatesBest wear a good thick skirtLandscape Nature and the Body Politic From Britains Renaissance to Americas New Worldby Kenneth Olwig352pp WisconsinThe Politics of Nature William Wordsworth and Some Contemporariesby Nicholas Roe228pp MacmillanRomanticism and the Materiality of Natureby Onno Oerlemans253pp TorontoIn Natures Name An Anthology of Womens Writing and Illustration 1780-1930ed Barbara T Gates699pp Chicago Nature is a slippery word What do we mean by it The OED lists 15 different definitions Perhaps scientists have the answer after all their journal is called Nature Or is science part of the problem How natural is a human ear growing on the back of a lab mouse There are no simple answers but there are clues in many different disciplinesGeographer Kenneth Olwig explores the social and political origins of landscape One of the first uses of the word occurs in The Masque of Blackness 1605 written by Ben Jonson and designed by architect Inigo Jones Performed for James I the self-proclaimed King of Great Britain this masque used landscape to legitimise the Stuart dynasty by forging the image of the British nation-state as a body politic in a body geographic Jonson and Jones created a new political mindscape from a theatrical landscapeThe rediscovery of Inigo Joness scenic vision of Britain as landscape at the beginning of the 18th century transformed the English countryside After the revolution of 1688 the Whig gentry who dominated Parliament wanted to make their mark on the countryside In the landscaped gardens of their country seats nature became a theatrical space moulded by a surveyor and an architectThese landscapes did not grow out of culture and custom Ancient villages were demolished to create an artificial Arcadia in England Olwig argues that they were politically motivated landscapes Whigscapes designed to naturalise the power of
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