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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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Pastoralism, Poetics and Politics in Three Texts by Rick Bass from the 1990s

Extract



The Crosscurrents of Pastoralism

In an important essay, published in 1992 and entitled “The Crosscurrents of Walden’s Pastoral,” H. Daniel Peck describes what he believes to be a constitutive tension (or crosscurrent) at the heart of pastoral writing in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, a tension originating in the writer’s very idea of nature. As a particular instance of the crosscurrents theory Peck’s wide-ranging essay – a prolongation of Leo Marx’s The Machine in the Garden (1964) – cites the “Ponds” chapter. Peck underlines Thoreau’s anger in this chapter at the exploitation the pond and the forests surrounding it have undergone since the writer was a child. For example, Thoreau describes, in a strikingly anti-technological image, the trains that rumble along the railway bordering one end of the pond as “devilish Iron Horse[s]” and the railway itself as “that Trojan horse, with a thousand men in his belly, introduced by mercenary Greeks” (Walden 174). Here Thoreau is speaking as an environmentalist presenting a conflict between preservation and economic exploitation and forcefully coming down on the side of the preservation of what he considers a valuable site. Yet, in the course of the “Ponds” chapter, Thoreau’s attitude changes: he switches quite abruptly from anger over the despoiling of a cherished place to a celebration of the pond’s purity and to the eternal principles of nature the pond stands for: “Nevertheless,” Thoreau emphasises, “of all the characters I have known, perhaps Walden wears best, and best preserves its purity” (Walden...

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