On the Nature of Architecture: An Ecocritical Approach to Vitruvius

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University Club, Room 212
@ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

An image of da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man.” An ink sketch on paper, surrounded by text, of a man with outstretched limbs; an overlayed circle and square connect the different points of the body.
Leonardo da Vinci, Florentine, 1452-1519. ca. 1485-1490. Study of a man according to Vitruvius (Vitruvian Man).

Amie Goblirsch

Robert J. Reinhold Dissertation Fellow (2021-2022)

Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, UW-Madison

In the beginning of his work On Architecture, Vitruvius states that he has compiled a work that encompasses “every principle of the discipline.” He later states that his work stands as the first complete “body of architecture” written in Latin. But what he saw as a unified, comprehensive text has often been viewed by recent generations of scholars as a work lacking both completeness and cohesion. While some more recent work has argued against this characterization, work remains to be done. My project seeks to show that by taking an ecocritical approach to Vitruvius’ work, what emerges from the text is not only an almost constant obsession with how the built environment should interact with nature, but also a central theme that connects even the most seemingly disconnected aspects of the De Architectura: the built environment’s role in negotiating a healthy relationship between humankind and nature. In this talk, I will first demonstrate the prevalence of nature and the natural environment throughout Vitruvius’ work. I will then show, by way of a case study, how a fuller understanding and appreciation of nature’s role in the text provides a unity not otherwise found.

Amie Goblirsch is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She received her B.A. in Classics from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2016 and her M.A. in Classics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2018. Her primary research interests are in Greek and Latin technical literature and the material culture of the ancient Mediterranean. Her dissertation examines the role of nature and the natural environment in Vitruvius’ Augustan-era work De Architectura (On Architecture).