Elizabeth von Arnim’s Garden Memoirs: Cultivating Feminism?


As Elizabeth von Arnim (1866–1944) becomes a self-taught woman gardener, she also learns how to depict her treasure garden and the thoughts it arouses in two short books, Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898) and The Solitary Summer (1899). In the garden, the enthusiastic amateur finds in the garden an appropriate place to create her own place of solitude and privacy, outside the domestic routine imposed upon her by her aristocratic background. While both novels follow the seasons and the changes in the vegetation, von Arnim’s witty prose presents the garden as an ally against masculine domination. As she is reluctant to monitor nature, she also challenges its feminine attributes. The garden empowers von Arnim to articulate her feminist views because the very weapons of femininity—the gender—oriented motifs of garden walking and garden writing—are manipulated so as to use garden—romance as the expression of her relative independence. Her views on gender grow out of the garden because it is propitious to her feminist ideas. Von Arnim’s unusual feminism and her aestheticized environment cross-fertilize in her garden writing

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