The Aesthetics of the Mountain
: Latin as a Progressive Force in the Late-Renaissance and Early Modern Period

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Neo-Latin was a progressive force in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe. As such, its literature played a significant role in shaping the ideas of the modern world. This study will attempt to corroborate these assertions by taking the example of the aesthetic attitude change towards the mountain that took place in the Renaissance and Early Modern Period. This attitude shift saw the mountain change from a fearful, ugly or simply aesthetically uninteresting place, to one of beauty and splendor over the course of around 300 years. Previous studies have argued that this change took place in the vernacular literature of the early and mid 18th century. This thesis will contend that it took place earlier and in Latin. The aesthetic attitude shift towards the mountain can be shown to have had its catalysts in two broad spheres: firstly the development of an idea of 'landscape', and secondly in its increasing scientific and theological investigation. These two broad spheres can then be divided into a further two topics each: the 'landscape idea' emerged on the one hand from growing geographical—particularly chorographical—interest in Germanic countries at the beginning of the 16th century, and on the other hand out of the growing trend for specialisation and secularisation in art theory during the same period. The scientific interest in the mountain was driven by the numerous debates that sprang out of attempts to explain natural phenomena with reference to scripture. The effect of the changes in both scientific and theological thought on the aesthetic perception of the mountain reached its peak in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
The new Latin evidence for the change in aesthetic attitude towards the mountain unearthed in the course of this study brings new material to the current debate on the aesthetics of nature. This study's concluding chapter shows that looking more closely into the processes that produced the Late Renaissance and Early Modern shift in aesthetic attitude towards the mountain can reveal important information for modern positions on the aesthetic appreciation of nature.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorVictoria Moul (Supervisor)

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