Atlas of Places
Rural Patterns I
The historical revival of regionalism was re-enforced by another movement: the Return to Nature.
The cultivation of nature for its own sake, and the pursuit of rural modes of living and the appreciation of the rural environment became in the eighteenth century one of the chief means of escaping the counting house and the machine. So long as the country was uppermost, the cult of nature could have no meaning: being a part of life, there was no need to make it a special object of thought. It was only when the townsman found himself closed in by his methodical urban routine and deprived in his new urban environment of the sight of sky and grass and trees, that the value of the country manifested itself clearly to him. Before this, an occasional rare adventurer would seek the solitude of the mountains to cultivate his soul: but in the eighteenth century Jean-Jacques Rousseau, preaching the wisdom of the peasant and the sanity of the simple rural occupations, led a whole succession of generation outside the gates of their cities: they botanized, they climbed mountains, they sang peasant songs, they swam in the moonlight, they helped in the harvest field; and those who could afford to built themselves rural retreats. This impulse to recapture nature had a powerful influence upon the cultivation of the environment as a whole and upon the development of cities: but I reserve this for discussion in another book.
“[…] for the first time in France since Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the countryside had become trendy again.”
Michel Houellebecq, La Carte et le Territoire, 2010