The Green Man: the desire for deeper connections with nature

Prudence Gibson

Abstract


In an epoch of compromised ecologies and parallel changes in human perceptions of nature, this paper charts the development of the Green Man or Foliate Face in art and architecture. The Green Man first appeared in France in the 1st century and flourished in British architecture in the 11–15th centuries. This pagan character was a Wildman, worshipped as both an apotropaic and benevolent spirit, associated with fertility. This paper provokes an inquiry into whether the leafy extrusions from Green Man’s mouth are a form of nonhuman desiring language, a means of communicating with the plant world, or merely a site of vegetal genesis and agency. In contemporary visual art, the concept of the Green Man or the hybrid plant–animal has emerged anew, no doubt in response to climate change fears and diminishing ecodiversities. Edourdo Kac’s 'Enigma', for instance, is a genetically modified petunia flower, created from Kac’s DNA, combining human and plant genes in the one plant. This paper draws on the plant philosophy of Michael Marder and traces the Green Man plant–human hybrid into the present, as a means of documenting the way nature thinks through humans.


Keywords


ecocriticism; critical plant studies; cultural studies

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References


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