Call for Papers
Gardens as Crossroads of Civilisations
An interdisciplinary international conference at Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg
27 - 30 May 2020
The idea of the garden in literature no less than its realisation in horticulture has been fascinating from early days on, and it is the poetic garden which, according to Bachelard, dominates all the gardens of the earth. Christian and Jewish scriptures place humanity’s origin into a garden, some millennia after the first gardens flourished in China. God is seen as the first Gardener and the growth of all the plants as an expression of the divine will. Not much can be said about the first man’s and woman’s life in that garden, except that they were expelled from it, and that is when morality, remorse and the awareness of mortality came up. Objective thoughts of paradise are finite and from outside rather than from inside. Thus the space which a garden occupies, objectively viewed, is always limited (though some landscape gardens try to obscure the fact), most visibly by hedges or walls, like in the early religiously motivated depictions of the hortus conclusus (in which Maria the junction between the human, earthly, and the divine may be depicted). A garden at any rate in a religious context may be seen as a place partaking of the divine, Eden and Gethsemane, an abode between heaven and earth. To the poet, the imagined garden becomes a true expression of their self, and, it is to be assumed, to the garden designer, too.
Examples abound. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the monastic medieval garden; the gardens of Kings and nobles in the Renaissance, particularly in Italy; the numerous stunning examples of the French garden; the countless fine specimens of the English Landscape Garden strewn all over Britain (and indeed also introduced to Continental Europe including Italy, famously at Caserta); such contemporary gardens as Niki de Saint Phalle’s Jardin des tarots in Tuscany (in which works of art are in the foreground), or the playful Garden for Peace in Bitche, Lorraine; the explicitly intercultural landscape gardens of Woerlitz (not far from Magdeburg), where a Rousseau Island pays tribute to the Romantic thinker (whose influence against the curtailment of nature was so strong that even the gardens at Versailles were for a while uprooted and transferred into an English Garden) and where an artificial Vesuvius next to a small but exquisitely decorated Villa Hamilton reminds of Naples and of the recovery of the Portland Vase; the Elector’s Versailles-style gardens at Schwetzingen (near Heidelberg) which boast a mosque, as, similarly, though with less aesthetic emphasis, Woerlitz Park hosts a synagogue; Hanbury Gardens on the Italian Riviera, where Sir Thomas Hanbury is buried in an Ottoman mausoleum; George IV’s Royal Pavilion in Brighton attempts have been persistent to create a space where cross-cultural influences suggest that the destructive powers inherent in civilisation are shut out and overcome by integrating what is different, not always in a thematically obvious way as in the case of the Zen Garden in Berlin (Marzan; project “Gaerten der Welt”), a garden idea which is diametrical to what motivated the French kings from Louis XIII to Louis XVIII to impress with their enormous garden at Versailles which evidently was landscaped to represent the power of a ruler who had nature as much under control as his subjects.
That there are also gardens supposed to be less amenable to meditation or literary description may be assumed in, or again refuted by, the cases of the allotment garden (despite Jenkins’s Plot 29), or of McEwan’s Cement Garden. The latter two types of garden will hardly be said to be indebted to interculturalism, while tendencies towards the integration of foreign cultures were indeed clearly in the minds of those land owners who in previous centuries had returned to Britain from their Grand Tour. The gardens of the rich were always subject to a quasi public debate and discourse, which brought their architects (notably Brown or Repton) also into the focus of discussion in such novels as Austen’s Mansfield Park, and public discourse in the brightest minds is not confined by national boundaries.
Influences on and changes of landscape are by no means limited to the international traveller’s home country, where of course, with the introduction of exotic plants such as palm trees along those British shores that are favoured by the Gulf Stream, vistas were drastically changed. Even the most favoured tourist resorts abroad such as e.g. Nice on the Côte d’Azur, with its famous ‘Promenade des Anglais’ bespeak the botanically inclined British tourist’s desire to surround themselves with objects different from those seen in damp Britain, but which would even have been alien to these Mediterranean parts when the first tourists appeared, such as the tall varieties of palm trees. Those who, at least partially, settled in these pleasant climes (e.g. Sir Thomas Hanbury and a number of other moneyed nobles) made great efforts to improve (rather than simply accept and admire) the landscapes in which they wanted to feel at home.
This, in principle, though on a more focused scale, also seems to be the case with current developments such as ‘green roofs’ and even guerrilla gardening where aesthetic and ecological improvements are made in formerly unused and dreary urban locations.
The idea of this conference is to remind participants, and readers of its proceedings, of the fundamentally intercultural character of many outstanding gardens. It may arguably be mistaken to call gardens by national names, speaking of the English Garden, the Italian Garden etc., though these denominations serve well to communicate an idea of what type of garden is meant. Strictly speaking (and in the face of all nationalists), gardens of any kind hardly ever draw their characteristics from only one source, not even if it is as complexly stratified as a country or nation q.v. which English garden does not include an Italian garden? Thus, gardens and gardening bear much importance even for those aspects of culture that apparently are remote from horticulture.
Michael Symes: “The ‘Sentimental’ Garden”
Papers are welcome in: Aesthetics and History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, Literary Studies, Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature, World Literature, Ottoman Studies, Balkan Studies, Gender Studies, Geocriticism, Interculturalism, Film Studies and may thus include such topics as:
- Literary Gardens
- Gardens in Film
- Styles and Fashions in Garden Design over the Centuries
- Gender and the Garden in English Literature and in Garden Design
- Tribute to the World Abroad: International Influence on the Garden at Home
- The Landscape Garden
- Landscape Gardeners and their Ideas
- Cultivation of the exotic, florilegia and Botanic Gardens
- Locus amœnus and locus horribilis cultivated
- Continental landscapes (both in gardens and outside) changed according to English taste
- The aesthetics of Basins, Ponds, Lakes and Fountains in Gardens
- Playing with Water in the Garden
- The Victorian Garden: new technology and greenhouse design
- The Suburban and the Urban Garden
- The Garden as an Extension of the House
- The Garden City and its Influence on City Planning
- Xenophobia in the Allotment Garden
- Gardens and Crime
- Gardens and Politics
- Gardens under the aspect of Ecology
- Guerilla Gardening and the Idea behind It
- Poets, Playwrights and Novelists as Gardeners
Magdeburg boasts not only a richly planted Green Citadel (“Hundertwasser-Haus”), https://www.tourispo.de/attraktion/hundertwasserhaus-gruene-zitadelle-magdeburg.html and Germany’s first ‘Volksgarten’, the Klosterberge Garten (designed by Peter Joseph Lenné) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klosterbergegarten, the Gruson Greenhouses and a number of parks which were designed according to English garden ideas. The city is situated not far from the Woerlitz Gartenreich, a UNESCO world heritage site, supposed by many to be the finest English landscape garden outside Britain, with buildings in both Palladian and Gothic architecture http://www.gartenreich.com/en/index.html. Near Magdeburg there is also a small palace with a French and an adjacent English garden by the name of Hundisburg, http://www.haldensleben.de/Start/Stadtportrait/Ortsteile/Hundisburg/index.php?La=1&NavID=2048.33&object=tx,2048.1770.1&kat=&kuo=1&sub=0 where Leibniz visited and devoted some attention to the library.
We are grateful to the Otto-von-Guericke Society, notably Dr. Manfred Troeger and Prof. Dr. Mathias Tullner, for offering their fine rooms in what formerly belonged to Magdeburg’s fortifications on the River Elbe, the Lukas Klause, for the purpose of this conference. Special thanks are due to the Director of Gartenreich Woerlitz, Ms Brigitte Mang, for giving her full assistance to the realisation of a conference outing to this outstanding landscape garden; and to the Director of the Hundisburg palace and gardens, Dr. Harald Blanke, who actively supports the concluding visit to Hundisburg.
The Otto-von-Guericke University’s Faculty of Humanities has from its foundation in 1993 emphasised the importance of cultural studies and of links with universities abroad. We would like to welcome you on this occasion.
Abstracts of no more than 500 words of twenty-minute papers may be submitted by e-mail to
by October 31st 2019, together with a brief CV of no more than 100 words.
Applicants will be notified by December 10th, 2019
and are requested to confirm participation by January 7th, 2020.
A conference fee of no more than 42 € (we hope significantly less than that) will be due upon arrival at the venue. This fee includes transfer to and from Woerlitz (Friday afternoon) and Hundisburg (Saturday afternoon).
Please do not yet book accommodation as the Hotels page will soon be updated and adjusted for this conference.
This homepage will be updated in due course.
Academic Conference Board:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Nicklas (Professeur de civilisation des pays germanophones, UFR Lettres et Sciences Humaines Reims, Directeur du CIRLEP (Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne);
Prof. Duncan Wu, PhD (Raymond Wagner Professor in Literary Studies, Georgetown University);
Prof. Mihaela Irimia (Director of Studies of the British Cultural Studies Centre (BCSC), Director of the Centre of Excellence for the Study of Cultural Identity, Director of the Doctoral School for Literary-Cultural Studies of the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures (Universitatea din Bucureşti);
Prof. Dr. Leonor Santa Bárbara (Classical Studies, Dept. of Portugese Studies, Universidade Nova de Lisboa);
Dr. Olimpia Gargano (Chercheuse associée au Centre Transdisciplinaire d'Épistémologie de la Littérature et des Arts vivants, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis);
Prof. Simon Edwards (English Literature, Roehampton University);
Dr. Luciano Mauro (Director of the Giardino della Minerva, Salerno);
Prof. Dr. Jens Martin Gurr (Professor of British Literature and Culture, University of Duisburg-Essen, Speaker of that university’s strategic research area in Urban Systems, co-ordinator of the UAR Ruhr Competence Field “Metropolitan Research”, President of the German Society for English Romanticism).