Pastoral and Anti-Pastoral Patterns in John Updike's Fiction

Pastoral and Anti-Pastoral Patterns in John Updike's Fiction

Pastoral and Anti-Pastoral Patterns in John Updike's Fiction

Pastoral and Anti-Pastoral Patterns in John Updike's Fiction


Updike's importance in contemporary literature is stressed by this and the following work. Here Mr. Taylor relates Updike to themesdominant in American literature since colonial days- the idealization of rustic life and rejection of it- both of which themes show in Updike's work, according to Taylor. In relating Updike's fiction to pastoral and anti-pastoral patterns Taylor makes a valuable contribution to literary history as well as to critical understanding of an outstanding contemporary writer.


Larry E. Taylor 's book on John Updike states that Updike is beyond question, "a major American novelist ." Mr. Taylor 's critique of that writer's fiction convincingly deals with the important themes of the novels and short stories seen principally in terms of the pastoral, whether pro-, mock-, or anti-. Mr. Taylor 's exposition and analysis are expert and masterful. They begin with Updike 's earliest work and bring us up to date with a thorough discussion of Bech: a Book.

Mr. Taylor provides an interesting (and mercifully brief) history of the pastoral, from the times when Theocritus usually composed his rural-worshipping Idylls with the hills around Arcady or memories of them in the background, and Mr. Taylor also discusses Virgil's Georgics and Eclogues , so full of the countryside near Mantua . Mr. Taylor then examines American literature from its beginnings and shows us how various forms of the pastoral have been present from the first. He usefully gives special attention to Thoreau and to Walden, commenting on its use of different phases of the pastoral.

Some more recent authors are also mentioned, however briefly, including Ernest Hemingway , who wrote with such forceful nostalgia about the rivers and forests of his childhood experiences in northern Michigan , and Willa Gather , whose novels and stories so often re-created the Nebraska plains of her youth. As for Sinclair Lewis , we are shown how the apparently pastoral elements in Babbitt turn toward the anti-pastoral mode.

Mr. Taylor also shows how skillfully John Updike uses both these modes, so that no further direct commentary is . . .

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