Locus amoenus

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Locus amoenus

Postby Sabina » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:11 am

The following is taken from Wikipedia.
I thought it was interesting, either as is, or possibly for conversation...?

Latin for "pleasant place", locus amoenus is a literary term which generally refers to an idealized place of safety or comfort. A locus amoenus is usually a beautiful, shady lawn or open woodland, sometimes with connotations of Eden. In 1953, Ernst Robert Curtius wrote the concept's definitive formulation in his European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages.

A locus amoenus will have three basic elements: trees, grass, and water. Often, the garden will be in a remote place and function as a landscape of the mind. It can also be used to highlight the differences between urban and rural life or be a place of refuge from the processes of time and mortality. Some gardens in the genre also have overtones of the regenerative powers of human sexuality.

The literary use of this type of setting goes back, in Western literature at least, to Homer, and it became a staple of the pastoral works of poets such as Theocritus and Virgil. Horace (Ars poetica, 17) and the commentators on Virgil, such as Servius, recognize that descriptions of loci amoeni have become a rhetorical commonplace.

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, the function of the locus amoenus is inverted. Instead of offering a respite from dangers, it is itself usually the scene of violent encounters.

In the works of William Shakespeare, the locus amoenus is the space that lies outside of city limits. It is where erotic passions can be freely explored, away from civilization and thus hidden from the social order which acts to suppress and regulate sexual behavior. It is mysterious and dark, a feminine place, as opposed to the rigid masculine civil structure. Examples can be found in A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, and Titus Andronicus.
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Re: Locus amoenus

Postby tzilla86 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 2:49 am

I really like this phrase. I have actually never heard of it before, which is interesting, due to my literature study in college. I knew about Shakespeare's use of the wilderness as a stark opposite to society and civilization. As You Like It has always been one of my favorites.

A few others I thought of while reading this are: Emerson and Thoreau (and really any of the transcendentalists) Thoreau literally lived the concept of Locus Amoenus for a time. As well as Tennyson (Lady of Shallot is an example, also one of my favorites), Whitman, and Wordsworth. (to name a few off the top of my head)

To return back to good old Will. I always thought it interesting that the woods and wilderness were to represent the feminine. I mean, I agree in some spiritual ways, but I can't remember literary-wise why besides the fact that it is opposite of civilization (a male's creation). And in As You Like It, Rosalind has the gender bending thing he likes to play with. I always assumed she had power not solely because she was away from her father and the males confining her, but because she had assumed their gender, the gender of power.

I would like to hear other people's take on the idea of the wilderness and Locus Amoenus being portrayed or linked to the feminine and femininity.
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Re: Locus amoenus

Postby mirjana » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:39 pm

Very nice topic Sabina. =0)

tzilla86 wrote:... I always thought it interesting that the woods and wilderness were to represent the feminine. I mean, I agree in some spiritual ways, but I can't remember literary-wise why besides the fact that it is opposite of civilization (a male's creation). And in As You Like It, Rosalind has the gender bending thing he likes to play with. I always assumed she had power not solely because she was away from her father and the males confining her, but because she had assumed their gender, the gender of power.

Aside of wood and wilderness, there are many other symbols of feminine and more or less they are mostly connected with some kind of darkness, deep, mysterious...
Locus amoeonus is almost natural part of lyric, poetry in general, as a place where deeper feelings can be explored.
Secret place with trees, grass and water is a place for inner journeys and as such this place has taken as a symbol in some psychology therapies as a place where we mentally take such an image and bring us there in order to establish emotions of serenity and calmness.
It is also present on many famous paintings and almost inevitable in a romantic, esoteric or spiritual movies. Why connected to feminine? Because archetypal symbolism of feminine is connected with inner aspects (heart, psyche, sub and unconsciousness, love, marriage, mother, virgin...), it is seductive and therefore "dark" aspect of personality. Actually it is only part of light, or the essence without which the whole light cannot be understood. And as such, it is transmitted in different forms into arts, literature...Art and literature are artistic researches about human nature. Whenever the feminine archetype is there, some of symbols to express it are also there. Locus amoenus is a kind of stage for these expressions.
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