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The Dream of 'la ville fleurie': A Non-Linear History and Pragmatic Criticism of Public Gardens in Montreal


The Dream of 'la ville fleurie': A Non-Linear History and Pragmatic Criticism of Public Gardens in Montreal

Despard, Erin (2013) The Dream of 'la ville fleurie': A Non-Linear History and Pragmatic Criticism of Public Gardens in Montreal. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Despard_PhD_S2013.pdf - Accepted Version


This thesis sets out to theorize the social and political agency of public gardens, and to find a means of comprehending their potential for facilitating creative as opposed to prescriptive cultural change, as well as their (perhaps more predominant) culturally conservative tendencies. I pursue this objective in large part through a more fulsome description of effects specific to gardens, attempting to develop a criticism capable of perceiving the function of different garden forms, and a more open-ended trajectory for their evolution.

The focus is on gardens in Montreal, as seen in part through the lens of the city’s annual beautification campaigns (which ran more or less continuously between 1914 and 1989) and a variety of other horticulturally-oriented beautification initiatives undertaken by the municipal administration and in large part enabled by the staff and resources of the Montreal Botanical Garden. Culminating in the city’s hosting of the Floralies internationales in 1980, this history provides context for the evolution of a distinctly horticultural urbanism in Montreal—one which attributes to gardens an enhanced social significance and sees in them an avenue for (usually prescriptive) cultural change.

Against the background of this history, as well as in more active juxtaposition with it, I investigate the social and political functioning of two particular gardens in Montreal—one found at the site of the Botanical Garden and the other at the Jardins des Floralies in Parc Jean-Drapeau. By weaving together an experimental fieldwork, creative writing practice and archival research, I attempt to describe a much wider range of effects in and of gardens than is usual from either a social scientific or art historical point of view. Juxtaposing those descriptions in turn with analysis of a variety of (historically related) media forms, I produce a way of seeing gardens that registers a distinctive but underappreciated sociality (in other words, the basis for re-imagining their role in processes of social change).

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Despard, Erin
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:April 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):van Wyck, Peter C.
Keywords:public gardens, horticulture, Montreal, garden criticism, creative writing
ID Code:977214
Deposited On:17 Jun 2013 15:22
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:44
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