Ruined by Design: Shaping Novels and Gardens in the Culture of Sensibility

By Dr. Inger Sigrun Brodey. (June) 2008. 273 pages, excluding index.

2009 Winner of the SAMLA Studies Award 

Ruined by Design draws on fictional narratives, landscape architecture, discussions of ‘natural’ language, guides to rhetoric, philosophical writings, and other aspects of the culture of sensibility in England, France, and Germany, to offer a new synthesis of its literary and material culture:

“By examining the motif of ruination in a variety of late-eighteenth-century domains, this book portrays the moral aesthetic of the culture of sensibility in Europe, particularly its negotiation of the demands of tradition and pragmatism alongside utopian longings for authenticity, natural goodness, self-governance, mutual transparency, and instantaneous kinship. This book argues that the rhetoric of ruins lends a distinctive shape to the architecture and literature of the time and requires the novel to adjust notions of authorship and narrative to accommodate the prevailing aesthetic. Just as architects of eighteenth-century follies pretend to have discovered “authentic” ruins, novelists within the culture of sensibility also build purposely fragmented texts and disguise their authorship, invoking highly artificial means of simulating nature. The cultural pursuit of human ruin, however, leads to hypocritical and sadistic extremes that put an end to the characteristic ambivalence of sensibility and its unusual structures.”

 

Ruined by Design reveals a widespread discomfort with authorship and authority in general, which led to innovative new structures in the fledging novel, as well as in landscape gardens and their architecture. 

Ruined by Design won the 2009 SAMLA Studies Book Award.

©2020  Inger Sigrun Bredkjær Brodey