UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The concept of the garden in selected Spanish works of the Medieval and Golden Age Hoess, Lucia


The vision of a beautiful garden has been a constant in man's imagination. Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, that vision was manifest as a longing for a return to the primeval paradise. Throughout the ages, this longing has found expression in art and literature and very often, the image of the garden has become associated, and even synonymous, with Heaven itself. In the Spanish literature of the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque, the image of the garden as "hortus conclusus" enjoyed wide popularity. During the Middle Ages, that topos was mostly used in an allegorical context with a moralizing intent. In the Renaissance, the popularity of the topos decreased in favour of the concept and landscape of Arcadia, except in mystical literature, where it continued to flourish. The Spanish Counter-Reformation brought about a revival of religious intensity, often not without medieval undertones, and during this time. Arcadian Renaissance elements were carried over into the new epoch, albeit set into a new context, as the aesthetic appeal to the senses was now put in the service of God's praise. A parallel study of the treatment of gardens in literature in contrast with gardens in real life shows whether, in each epoch, real life gardens exerted an influence on imaginary gardens, or whether literary gardens were used as models for the creation of the real ones. From such a study it is possible to hypothesize that both, real and literary gardens can reflect the cultural climate of their times, and that any changes in their presentation can be indicative of changes in contemporary beliefs and concerns. The garden, concealed as a literary or philosophic topic, or as a commentary on social issues, can thus represent a place of learning and meditation, a plaisance for love and secrecy, a mere background for dramatic presentations, or an encomium in praise of God's creation. The five Spanish authors selected to test that hypothesis wrote at different periods and with different purposes. Their individual conception of the garden as a literary or ontological place has been studied and contrasted via a string of focal points: the type of garden conveyed, their view of the garden as a sacred place, the contrasting concepts of solitude and isolation related to different gardens; activities inside the garden; the possible changes a garden undergoes through mood perception and temporal variations; the garden residents' relationship to the divinity; and their hope for a return to paradise. Since the function implied by the authors of these five literary gardens reveals the audience they had in mind, it can be said that the garden has also the function of an exemplary text, and can thus be used as 1. a seductive didactic lesson; 2. as an admonitory moral "exemplvim"; 3. as a religious manual; 4. as a reflection on, and praise of, divine harmony; and 5. as a gallery of erudition. A garden is therefore able to disclose the attitudes and values projected onto it by its author and its time, allowing the reader a glimpse into its "Zeitgeist".

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