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Mutating Idylls

Uses and Misuses of the Locus Amoenus in European Literature, 1850-1930


Edited By Carsten Meiner

Mutating Idylls examines the surprising presence of the antique literary topos of the idyllic landscape, the locus amoenus, in European literature from the latter half of the 19th century. The book sets out to identify how this topos, which for many obvious reasons has no place in politically and socially realistic and naturalist literature, actually does have a role to play. Chapters on central 19th century authors like Flaubert and Zola, Fontane, Verga and Hamsun, Austen, Eliot and Wilde, Jiménez, Cernuda, and Galdós demonstrate both the presence and the multiple refunctionalizations of the locus amoenus. The theoretical aim of Mutating Idylls is to rehabilitate the notion of literary topos. This feature is present in the introduction as a possibility in literary studies today. The articles all argue in the direction of a notion of topos, which is more flexible than the one Curtius defines along the lines of formula or cliché. In this way, the book intervenes in at least three major fields of study: 19th century studies, classical philology, and literary theory. Through empirical analyses covering diverse authors who all, more or less unconsciously, use the locus amoenus, Mutating Idylls offers a new understanding of the culture of writing in the 19th century and contributes to literary theory a rehabilitation of the important notion of the topos.