Pastoral

Pastoral is often considered to be a dead mode. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics informs us that Wordsworth’s “Michael” (1800) “well marks the end of serious attempts in the genre” (“Pastoral” 1993, 887), while The Penguin Book of English Pastoral Verse locates the end of pastoral slightly later, with the early-nineteenth-century “peasant poet” John Clare. Indeed, John Barrell and John Bull, the editors of the Penguin anthology, insist that a contemporary revival of pastoral “is not . . . something that can be looked for with anything other than alarm. For today, more than ever before, the pastoral vision simply will not do” (1975, 432). A survey of recent scholarship, however, suggests that “pastoral”—a term that traditionally designates poetry and drama that offer a nostalgic and idealized portrayal of the life of shepherds and their rural surroundings—is defined not so much by its obsolescence as by its persistence. …

This essay may be found on page 158 of the printed volume.

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