Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI
Pastoral, History and Utopia
← 88 | 89 → SIMONA CORSO
In an interview with David Attwell, J.M. Coetzee defines the genre of the pastoral in the following manner:1
At the center of the mode, it seems to me, lies the idea of the local solution. The pastoral defines and isolates a space in which whatever cannot be achieved in the wider world (particularly the city) can be achieved.2
The word solution attracts our attention: since its origins, pastoral art has interrogated the idea of conflict, of a damaged world that needs to be mended, or, in the most extreme case, left behind. There are strong links between the pastoral and utopia. The conventions of the pastoral evoke the Judeo-Christian myth of Earthly Paradise, and, further back in time, the classical trope of the garden that grows fruit spontaneously. The garden is the spatial equivalent of the golden age, a period that knows no evil, and ignores the harms of labour, the ‘tiresome toil’,3 as Hesiod puts it, or ‘the sweat of your brow’,4 in the words of the book of Genesis. The pastoral tradition embraces the myth of the garden/Eden and its nostalgic awareness of a definitive loss, and invents a new paradise in minore, less glorious but also ← 89 | 90 → more human, where labour is not a punishment, but a means of salvation. A variety of the pastoral that goes back to Virgil’s Georgics celebrates the ideal of the cultivated garden. The notion of cheerful toil...
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