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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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Introduction Poetics and Politics of Place in Pastoral: International Perspectives

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Introduction

Poetics and Politics of Place in Pastoral: International Perspectives

In the wake of the ecocritical movement (e.g., Lawrence Buell, Glen A. Love, Lance Newman and others), the pastoral genres and pastoralism in general are often considered as anachronistic. In our period of global environmental crisis, pastoral celebrations of particular places can seem beside the point or, literally, out of place. Furthermore, since the 19th century at least, and arguably since the Renaissance, writers and critics have been wary of pastoral’s frequently doubtful politics. Indeed, if pastoral can sometimes be construed as a way to encourage what today we would call “green” attitudes, it has also been employed to justify land appropriation and colonialism (cf. Buell, Environmental Imagination). And yet, if describing the present state of our planet would seem rather to call for anti-pastoralism, pastoral ideals – especially in relation to particular places and their specific history, geography and culture – are still alive even though they more often manifest themselves by ironic indirection than by straightforward celebration. (Many people suspect that the latter is sentimental, illusionary or downright cynical.) It is the continuing though tenuous presence of the pastoral and its enduring significance for writers and critics that this book tries to map.

Indeed, we should not oversimplify the pastoral; we should neither fall for its backward looking nostalgia, nor uncritically generalize its political ambiguity. Recent discussions of the subject – for instance, a roundtable devoted to pastoral at a 2011 conference...

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