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The Growth and Uses of the Idyllic Model in Literature


Virgil Nemoianu

The idyllic model is defined (in opposition to pastoral) as an extended topos or model of the physical and social universe, descended from an older world-view, but also offering a stylized image of part of the social reality of the 18th century and early 19th century. It is an attempt to suggest a state of mankind as a humanistic response to the natural state, and proves relevant to socio-historical developments during a century and a half. The usefulness of the idyllic model reaches a peak in the later part of the 18th century; major difficulties arise when writers try to endow it with a universal validity and to establish working relationship between the idyll and energy. The Romantic rejection of the idyll results in a playful, ironic usage. By 1850 a didactic-ideological usage of the model emerges, that can still be traced in politics and philosophy.
Contents: The Idyll Triumphant (Goldsmith, Smollett, Cowper, Voss, Goethe) - Playing with the Idyll (Hoffmann, Jean Paul, Carlyle, Lamb) etc.