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Poetics and Politics of Place in Pastoral

International Perspectives

Edited By Bénédicte Chorier-Fryd, Charles Holdefer and Thomas Pughe

In a time of global environmental crisis, pastoralism may seem beside the point. Yet pastoral ideals are still alive even though they often manifest themselves by ironic indirection. What can the pastoral tradition teach us about our ties to particular places?
The contributors to this volume attempt to lay the groundwork for the ongoing concern with pastoral and with its critical revision.
This volume brings together new essays that focus on painting, photography, poetry, essay, fiction and film, from the Renaissance to the present. They also take into account an astonishing variety of pastoral places, in Europe, Africa, and North America; country and city; suburbia and industrial zones.
Poetics and Politics of Place in Pastoral is not only about reassessing the past, but also provides a sense of future developments as the pastoral reinvents itself for the 21 st century.
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From “The Cimmerian Ravines of Modern Cities” to the “Upaithric” Temples of Pastoral Greece: The Place of Nature in Shelley’s Ancient Ruins

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The first generation of Romantics sought a pastoral Eden in Christian Britain, the Britain of folktales and ballads, with few excursions to ancient Greece or beyond.1 The second generation, on the other hand, ended up looking for it abroad, particularly in the “Levant.” They also went farther back in time, transcending the Christian era and conception of pagan Greece that Wordsworth formulated in The Excursion. For Wordsworth, the Arcadia of the Greeks was finally less ideal than the Christian Eden because, like the Celtic forests, it was more violent and peopled with mythological personifications remoter from the “true” God.

Escaping into a more ancient and mythical pastoral East, the later Romantics found themselves among ruins, which play an important part in their poetry, particularly in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s work. As the poet matured, through his readings of other poets, historians and philosophers, and his travels on the Continent, his view of ruins and their relation to nature also changed. Initially seen as traces of human incursions into nature, ruins eventually evolved into organic elements of one harmonious whole, as though these incursions had in fact been attempts at returning to an ideal or primitive state of existence. It is therefore from the perspective of ruins and their connection with nature that Shelley’s pastoral will be studied. For the poet, pastoral is less a literary genre than an ideal. ← 37 | 38 →

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