New Versions of Pastoral: Post-Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary Responses to the Tradition

New Versions of Pastoral: Post-Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary Responses to the Tradition

New Versions of Pastoral: Post-Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary Responses to the Tradition

New Versions of Pastoral: Post-Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary Responses to the Tradition

Synopsis

Bringing together both established and emerging scholars of the long nineteenth century, literary modernism, landscape and hemispheric studies, and contemporary fiction, New Versions of Pastoral offers a historically wide-ranging account of the Bucolic tradition, tracing the formal diversity of pastoral writing up to the present day. Dividing its analytic focus between periods, the volume contextualizes a wide range of exemplary practitioners, genres, and movements: contributors attend to early modernism's vacillation between critiquing and aestheticizing the rise of primitivist nostalgia; the ambiguous mythologization of the English estate by the twentieth-century manor house novel; and the post-national revisiting of the countryside and its sovereign status in contemporary imaginings of regional life.

Excerpt

David James and Philip Tew

William empson countered the various misapprehensions of both the bucolic tradition and the structure of the pastoral when famously he described the latter as “putting the complex into the simple” (25). the underlying understanding initiated by Empson’s observation is surely that at least potentially the aesthetic practices we understand as making up such a creative field of engagement can create radical discursive spaces, engaging our imaginative longings, sustaining utopian aspirations. and yet perhaps in some ways Empson’s dictum fails since very often these Arcadian or bucolic traditions are either misunderstood or misrepresented as simply a contraction into conservative nostalgia, especially when seen in the context of post-Romantic culture. Nevertheless in origin and in practice the dynamics of pastoral texts are far more adaptable, capable as they are of fluid and complicated ideological negotiations. New Versions of Pastoral positions in a global context the way such adaptability and complexity have been practiced, while recognizing the propensity for pastoral to elicit a variety of political and aesthetic adaptations.

That Arcadian images of rustic settings and encounters are often characterized in geographically abstract, romanticized terms has compromised a more sensitive understanding of the pastoral tradition as it intersects with successive phases of literary innovation. For the pastoral is a mode that inventively and often selfreflexively dramatizes those contentious and contested intersections of rural and urban zones, assuming as its ostensible setting and formal resource the volatility with which regional landscapes are drawn across time into cultural proximity. As such Arcadia may be best regarded as a realm of action, of certain intersections full of innate contradictions, which it attempts to partially resolve or mediate by adopting two key strategies: by both foregrounding archetypal patterns of behavior so as to insist upon the importance . . .

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