Telling tales : the construction of nature and Alpine myth in text and image in eighteenth-century Zurich

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This article examines the significance of nature for two male societies in Zurich during the eighteenth century. By focussing on Salomon Gessner and Johann Caspar Fuessli, the father of Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli, it explores the synthesis of classicist and romanticist forms of nature in their works. I show how their onstructions of nature help shape early forms of Swiss national identity as part of the campaign of resistance against Napoleonic invasion. By doing so, I demonstrate how nature as sign in both text and image shifts from a male pursuit formed out of opposition to authority, to nature as signifier of Swiss resistance at national level. This resistance is epitomised by the Alpine figure Wilhelm Tell.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-39
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number1
Early online date13 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Zurich, nationalism, Henry Fuseli, nature, Alpine

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