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The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America Paperback – February 24, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0195133516 ISBN-10: 019513351X Edition: 35th Anniversary

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 430 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 35th Anniversary edition (February 24, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019513351X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195133516
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #318,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for the previous edition: "An exciting book, exemplifying studies in American culture at their best."--Hennig Cohen, Saturday Review

"The thesis of this impressive book is important, and Professor Marx has found a wealth of material to support it."--American Historical Review

"This is an important contribution to our understanding of some of the enigmas and conflicts at work in the American imagination, particularly in the nineteenth century."--Tony Tanner, Encounter

About the Author

Leo Marx is Professor Emeritus of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Customer Reviews

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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on October 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Marx's book is roughly 50 years old now, but it still sparkles with insight into the myth and symbol discourse surrounding America's fulfillment of the 18th century idea of the "Garden of the World," a new Eden that would redeem mankind. Starting with "The Tempest" as reflective of the West's view of the geographic discovery of "primitive" and "unspoiled" lands, and moving through Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Twain, to Fitzgerald "The Great Gatsby" as an exemplification of how the simple"pastoralism" of the Enlightenment (based on the Virgillian pastoral form), Marx shows how the American artists and writers slowly came to grips with the penetration of the machine into the garden. He talks about the idea of the "middle landscape" a notion poised halfway between primitivism and progressivism, about the apparent perversity of "lazy" early settlers who, in the view of some commentators like Jefferson, never cultivated their own gardens, unlike the English aristocracy. The section on Melville's rewriting of the pastoral ideal in "Moby Dick" is a masterful excursion into the imagination and motives of Melville, as he questions the boosterism for industrialism which has infected even Emerson, who apostrophizes about how industry will forge a newer, better millenialist garden.
At some point before the industrial "take-off" there was hope that technology would extend and even democratize the garden. Stunning inventions one after the other -- the railroad, the telegraph, the industrial weaving machies -- and their introduction so soon after the American revolution portended a great unemcubered American future.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on September 26, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In writing this review I am attempting not to duplicate the excellent review by panopticonman below. Thus, I would refer all readers of this review to that review.
Marx's thesis, roughly stated, is that: Americans applied idea's developed about landscape in the old world to the landscape they discovered in the new world. In doing so, the landscape became a "repository of value" (value meaning economic, spiritual, etc.). The main idea about the landscape that travelled with them from Europe was the idea of "pastoralism".
Pastorialism, roughly expressed, represents the yearning by civilised man to occupy the space in between "art" and "nature". Marx does an excellent job of explaining the pre-modern understanding of "art" (which is different then our modern understanding of the word). Marx also distinguishes the a "simple" conception of pastoralism with a "complex" conception. Using the writings of Jefferson, Marx argues that Americans were more comfortable with the idea of a "complex" pastoralism that acknowledged the conflict inherent in the occupation of a "middle landscape" between art and nature.
Marx then attaches the concept of pastoralism to the symbol of the "garden" as representing a mediating space between art and nature (apply "arts" to "nature" and produce a garden).
After a further differentiation between the idea of the garden-as-continent vs. garden-as-garden, Marx moves on to the idea of the "machine".
What Marx means by the "machine" of the title is a relationship between culture and industry that was irrevocably altered by the industrial revolution.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By James Hoogerwerf on January 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
The pastoral image is alive and well, certainly in my mind anyway!

As an airline pilot observing the land below I often mused, sometimes in conversation with my fellow crewmembers, what it would be like to fly over the landscape as it existed in an earlier time. Of course, I would still want to be comfortably ensconced in my aluminum cocoon, able to zip thither and yon for whatever my allotted time. Today Hawthorne's peace in "Sleepy Hollow" is more likely to be disrupted by the "long shriek, harsh, above all other harshness...[that] the space of a mile cannot mollify it into harmony" of a jet engine than the whistle of a locomotive.

Leo Marx very capably traces the origin of the literary ideal of the "garden" and pinpoints its contradictory meanings through the literary creations of some of America's greatest writers. At its core is the contrast between two worlds, that of rural peace and simplicity or urban sophistication and power. The shriek of the locomotive whistle is a metaphor for industrial power.

Shakespeare's "The Tempast," provides a recurring theme "of a redemptive journey away from society in the direction of nature," but the pastoral design circumscribes the pastoral ideal, and is therefore out of reach. Nonetheless the image of a pastoral retreat is so believable that it almost seems a possibility. Marx goes on to explains how the pastoral ideal is modified by American writers to New World circumstances.

But, Robert Beverley in the "History and Present State of Virginia" confuses the two meanings of "garden." One results from man's improvements, the bounty of the land; the other is the language of myth.

This relationship between nature and man is evident in Jefferson's agrarian ideal in "Notes on Virginia.
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