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Between Nature and Culture: The Integrated Ecology of Renaissance Climate Theories

Citation: Miglietti, Sara (2020) Between Nature and Culture: The Integrated Ecology of Renaissance Climate Theories. In: Early Modern Ecologies: Beyond English Ecocriticism, ed. Pauline Goul and Phillip Usher. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

Between Nature and Culture (FINAL ACCEPTED).pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This essay examines French Renaissance “climate theories” as a privileged locus for rethinking the relationship between “nature” and “culture” in a dynamic and non-dualistic way (B. Latour). Climate theories, first advanced in ancient Greece by authors such as Hippocrates and Aristotle, were widely invoked in the Renaissance to explain temperamental differences among individuals as well as cultural and ethnic differences among human collectives. While scholars often bring such theories together under the umbrella term of “climatic determinism”, this article argues that Renaissance climate theories are in fact predominantly anti-deterministic, as they acknowledge the possibility for humans to shield themselves from climate’s influence in a variety of ways, including diet, music, and a liberal education. Far from postulating an absolute power of “nature” over “culture”, Renaissance climate theories draw attention to the peculiar “epistemic space” (lieu epistémique, J.-B. Fressoz) in-between nature and culture, as they seek to illuminate the mutually-constitutive interactions between the two. Thus, climate theories also shed light on the radical embeddedness of humans in nature, helping us to evisage man not as “external to nature” and standing in a relation of “domination or opposition” to it, but as deeply inscribed in natural processes (C. Larrère). Building on foundational scholarship by Bruno Latour and others, this essay proposes an analysis of some better- and lesser-known examples of French Renaissance climate theories (e.g. Louis Le Roy, Jean Bodin, Nicolas Abraham de La Framboisière) in order to reflect on what the “environmental reflexivity” of early modern societies can bring to a new “integrated ecology” of nature and human culture (J.-B. Fressoz, C. Larrère).

Creators: Miglietti, Sara (0000-0003-2872-1400) and
Subjects: Classics
Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Warburg Institute
  • 1 January 2020 (accepted)


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