The Imagination of Plants: A Book of Botanical Mythology

SUNY Press
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Examines the role of plants in botanical mythology, from Aboriginal Australia to Zoroastrian Persia.


Plants have a remarkable mythology dating back thousands of years. From the ancient Greeks to contemporary Indigenous cultures, human beings have told colorful and enriching stories that have presented plants as sensitive, communicative, and intelligent. This book explores the myriad of plant tales from around the world and the groundbreaking ideas that underpin them. Amid the key themes of sentience and kinship, it connects the anemone to the meaning of human life, tree hugging to the sacred basil of India, and plant intelligence with the Finnish epic The Kalevala. Bringing together commentary, original source material, and colorful illustrations, Matthew Hall challenges our perspective on these myths, the plants they feature, and the human beings that narrate them.


“Whether or not we believe that any plant actually has an imagination, the rhetorical flourish in Matthew Hall’s title sends us into his book with a serious interest in what he has to say. This is a valuable addition to our knowledge about mythic tale-telling and awareness of those elements of the animate world that science, since the Renaissance, has always placed on the lowest scale of value. Hall wants to redress this imbalance, and he does so by revealing just how essential (to Indigenous cultures) the plant kingdom was to humanity’s place in the universe.” — Ashton Nichols, author of Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Jul 1, 2019
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Pages
330
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ISBN
9781438474397
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Philosophy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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This volume presents the proceedings of a symposium which I organised for the Developmental Section of the Xlllth International Botanical Congress at Sydney, Australia on August 26, 1981. The paper by Professor T. Sachs, which was received too late for inclusion into the symposium at Sydney, was added to these proceedings because of its direct relevancy and importance. The aim of the symposium was to state in an explicit and comprehensive fashion the most basic axioms and principles of plant morphology and morphogenesis. An awareness of these axioms and principles is of paramount importance since they form. the foundations as well as the goal of structural developmental botany. Both teaching and research are predicated on them. The Introduction by the editor briefly examines the meaning of the concepts "axiom", "principle", and "plant construction". The comprehensive paper by Dr. G. Cusset, a unique historical overview, explicates 37 principles of 5 major conceptual systems and many subsystems. The extensive analysis includes a genealogy of ideas and ways of thinking of major authors ranging from philosophers and naturalists of antiquity to recent investigators of plant form and structure. The bibliography of Dr. Cusset I s paper comprises ca. 700 references. The contribution by Professor H. Mohr focusses on modern principles of morphogenesis and provides a penetrating analysis of scientific explanation in developmental biology. The universal principles (laws) described in this paper apply to all living systems, whereas the more specific principles are limited to plants or only higher plants. Professor T.
The Vegetative Soul demonstrates that one significant resource for the postmodern critique of subjectivity can be found in German Idealism and Romanticism, specifically in the philosophy of nature. Miller demonstrates that the perception of German Idealism and Romanticism as the culmination of the philosophy of the subject overlooks the nineteenth-century critique of subjectivity with reference to the natural world. This book’s contribution is its articulation of a plant-like subjectivity. The vision of the human being as plant combats the now familiar conception of the modern subject as atomistic, autonomous, and characterized primarily by its separability and freedom from nature. Reading Kant, Goethe, Hölderlin, Hegel, and Nietzsche, Miller juxtaposes two strands of nineteenth-century German thought, comparing the more familiar “animal” understanding of individuation and subjectivity to an alternative “plantlike” one that emphasizes interdependence, vulnerability, and metamorphosis.

While providing the necessary historical context, the book also addresses a question that has been very important for recent feminist theory, especially French feminism, namely, the question of the possible configuration of a feminine subject. The idea of the “vegetative” subject takes the traditional alignment of the feminine with nature and the earth and subverts and transforms it into a positive possibility. Although the roots of this alternative conception of subjectivity can be found in Kant’s third Critique and its legacy in nineteenth-century Naturphilosophie, the work of Luce Irigaray brings it to fruition.
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