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University of Delaware Faculty Profiles

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  • Annette Giesecke, Elias Ahuja Professor of Classics

    Elias Ahuja Professor of Classics
    Fellow in Garden and Landscape Studies, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC (Harvard University), 2019-2020
    University of Delaware
    111 Jastak-Burgess Hall
    Newark, DE 19716


    Annette Giesecke is a specialist in the history, meaning, and representation (in literature and the arts) of ancient Greek and Roman gardens and designed landscapes. Her work extends to the influence of Near Eastern garden traditions on those of the West and the many cultural ‘uses’ of plants in antiquity: symbolic, religious, culinary, medicinal, ornamental, and technological included. Further research interests include urbanism, utopianism, ancient epic (particularly Homer and Vergil), Epicureanism and Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, Greek tragedy, mythology, ancient painting (vase and mural/fresco), and the relation between texts and images.

    For her work on Roman gardens, Dr. Giesecke was named the Archaeological Institute of America Jashemski Lecturer for 2013-2014, and she was awarded a Dumbarton Oaks fellowship in Garden and Landscape Studies for 2019-2020. Her major publications include: The Epic City: Urbanism, Utopia, and the Garden in Ancient Greece and Rome (Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard UP, Washington DC and Cambridge, MA: 2007), Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden (Black Dog Publishing, London: 2012, co-ed. with Naomi Jacobs and contrib.), The Mythology of Plants: Botanical Lore from Ancient Greece and Rome (The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles: 2014), and The Good Gardener? Nature, Humanity and the Garden (Artifice books on architecture, London: 2015, co-ed. with Naomi Jacobs and contrib.). With botanist David Mabberley, she is general editor, volume editor, and contributor for A Cultural History of Plants (6 volumes, Bloomsbury, London: anticipated release, 2019). She is editor of and contributor to a project on the early modern capital of Iran, Isfahan: Blueprint for Paradise, Isfahan and the Choreography of Urban Change.

    Dr. Giesecke is Elias Ahuja Professor of Classics and Center for Material Culture Studies faculty at the University of Delaware. She was also Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at UD (2014-2019) and is affiliated faculty with the Delaware Environmental Institute. Dr. Giesecke holds her degrees from Harvard (Ph.D., M.A.) and UCLA (B.A).

    For online access to more publications, please see:


    • Ph.D., Classics, Harvard University
    • M.A., Classics, Harvard University
    • B.A., Classics, UCLA


    • Select Book Profiles:

    A Cultural History of Plants (6 volumes). Annette Giesecke and David Mabberly series editors, volume editors, and contributors. Bloomsbury: London, 2020.

    A Cultural History of Plants presents a global exploration of human-botanical interaction from prehistory to today. It is the definitive overview of how we have cultivated, traded, classified, and altered plants and how, in turn, plants have influenced human culture, from food and religion to medicine and architecture. 

    VOLUME 1 

    A Cultural History of Plants in Antiquity (c. 10,000 BCE-500 CE) 

    Edited by Annette Giesecke, University of Delaware, USA 

    VOLUME 2 

    A Cultural History of Plants in the Post-Classical Era (500-1400) 

    Edited by Alain Touwaide, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA 

    VOLUME 3 

    A Cultural History of Plants in the Early Modern Era (1400-1650) 

    Edited by Andrew Dalby, independent scholar, UK 

    VOLUME 4 

    A Cultural History of Plants in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1650-1800) 

    Edited by Jennifer Milam, University of Sydney, Australia 

    VOLUME 5 

    A Cultural History of Plants in the Nineteenth Century (1800-1920) 

    Edited by David Mabberley, University of Oxford, UK 

    VOLUME 6 

    A Cultural History of Plants in the Modern Era (1920-today) 

    Edited by Stephen Forbes, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Australia


    Each volume assesses the same key themes in its chapters, meaning readers can gain a broad overview of each period, or follow a theme throughout history by reading the relevant chapter in each volume. 


    1. Plants as Staple Foods 

    2. Plants as Luxury Foods 

    3. Trade & Exploration 

    4. Plant Technology & Science 

    5. Plants & Medicine 

    6. Plants in Culture 

    7. Plants as Natural Ornaments 

    8. The Representation of Plants

    The Good Gardener? Nature, Humanity, and the Garden

    The Good Gardener? Nature, Humanity, and the Garden illuminates both the foundations and after-effects of humanity’s deep-rooted impulse to manipulate the natural environment and create garden spaces of diverse kinds. Gardens range from subsistence plots to sites of philosophical speculation, refuge, and self-expression. Gardens may serve as projections of personal or national identity. They may result from individual or collective enterprises. They may shape the fabric of the dwelling house or city. They may be real or imagined, literary constructs or visions of paradise rendered in paint. Some result from a delicate negotiation between creator and medium. Others, in turn, readily reveal the underlying paradox of every garden’s creation: the garden, so often viewed as a kinder, gentler, ‘second nature,’ results from violence done to what was once wilderness. Designed as a companion volume to Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden, this richly illustrated collection of provocative essays is edited by Annette Giesecke, Professor of Classics at the University of Delaware, and Naomi Jacobs, Professor of English at the University of Maine. Contributors to this wide-ranging volume include photographer Margaret Morton, landscape ethicist Rick Darke, philosopher David Cooper, environmental journalist Emma Marris, and food historian William Rubel.

    More Info

    The Mythology of Plants: Botanical Lore From Ancient Greece and Rome

    This engaging book focuses on the perennially fascinating topic of plants in Greek and Roman myth. The author, an authority on the gardens, art, and literature of the classical world, introduces the book’s main themes with a discussion of gods and heroes in ancient Greek and Roman gardens. The following chapters recount the everyday uses and broader cultural meaning of plants with particularly strong mythological associations. These include common garden plants such as narcissus and hyacinth; pomegranate and apple, which were potent symbols of fertility; and sources of precious incense including frankincense and myrrh. Following the sweeping botanical commentary are the myths themselves, told in the original voice of Ovid, classical antiquity’s most colorful mythographer.

    The volume’s interdisciplinary approach will appeal to a wide audience, ranging from readers interested in archaeology, classical literature, and ancient history to garden enthusiasts. With an original translation of selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, an extensive bibliography, a useful glossary of names and places, and a rich selection of images including exquisite botanical illustrations, this book is unparalleled in scope and realization.

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    EARTH PERFECT? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden

    Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia and the Garden is an eclectic, yet rigorous reflection on the relationship—historical, present and future—between humanity and the garden. Through the lens of Utopian Studies—he interdisciplinary field that encompasses fictions all the way through to actual political projects, and urban ideals; in a nutshell, addressing the human natural drive towards the ideal—Earth Perfect? brings together a selection of inspiring essays, each contributed by foremost writers from the fields of architecture, history of art, classics, cultural studies, geography, horticulture, landscape architecture, law, literature, philosophy, urban planning and the natural sciences.

    Through these joined voices, the garden emerges as a site of contestation and a repository for symbolic, spiritual, social, political and ecological meaning. Questions such as: “what is the role of the garden in defining humanity’s ideal relationship with nature?” and “how should we garden in the face of catastrophic ecological decline?” are addressed through wide-ranging case studies, including ancient Roman Gardens in Pompeii, Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, the Gardens of Versailles, organic farming in New England and Bohemia’s secret gardens, as well as landscape in contemporary architecture.

    Issues relating to the utopian garden are explored thematically rather than chronologically, and organized in six chapters: “Being in nature”, “inscribing the garden”, “green/house”, “The garden politic”, “economies of the garden” and “how then shall we garden?” Each essay is both individual in scope and part of the wider discourse of the book as a whole, and each is lusciously illustrated, bringing to life the subject with diverse visual material ranging from photography to historical documents, maps and artworks.

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    The Epic City: Urbanism, Utopia, and the Garden in Ancient Greece and Rome

    As Greek and Trojan forces battled in the shadow of Troy’s wall, Hephaistos created a wondrous, ornately decorated shield for Achilles. At the Shield’s center lay two walled cities, one at war and one at peace, surrounded by fields and pasturelands. Viewed as Homer’s blueprint for an ideal, or utopian, social order, the Shield reveals that restraining and taming Nature would be fundamental to the Hellenic urban quest. It is this ideal that Classical Athens, with her utilitarian view of Nature, exemplified. In a city lacking pleasure gardens, it was particularly worthy of note when Epicurus created his garden oasis within the dense urban fabric.

    The disastrous results of extreme anthropocentrism would promote an essentially nostalgic desire to break down artificial barriers between humanity and Nature. This new ideal, vividly expressed through the domestication of Nature in villas and gardens and also through primitivist and Epicurean tendencies in Latin literature, informed the urban endeavors of Rome.

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    Atoms, ataraxy, and allusion: Cross-generic imitation of the De rerum natura in early Augustan poetry

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  • Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures
  • Jastak-Burgess Hall
  • University of Delaware
  • 30 East Main St.
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-2591