Pastoral Contexts

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Pastoral Context
Pastoral /Bucolic­ traditionally pertaining to shepherds and their occupation ­ simple,
solitary, independent communication with nature
Celebrates the natural charm of the country and the virtues of a simple, unsophisticated
(Doric, provincial) life far from the city or court (sophisticated and urbane) ­ a detachment
from materialism
Putting the complex life into the simple one ­ pastoral characters are often morally superior
A sense of nostalgia for the past ­ the longing for a rural paradise (representing Eden before
the fall)
Use of nature to write a poem centred on man ­ harmony and mutual support
Providing for man, sustenance
A search for lost innocence and a time when men and women lived in harmony with nature
One of the earliest pastoral authors was Theocritus (Ancient Greece) ­ Arcadia, a
mountainous region in Ancient Greece. In classical literature it stood for an ideal world of
rural tranquillity, away from the pressures of `real life'
Golden Age ­ Greek mythology, where human and nature lived in harmony ­ Greeks had
sentiments of this pastoral life being lost to them, although the pastoral is closer to the
Golden Age than the rest of human life
Pastoral shepherds and maidens often have Greek names, reflecting their origins
Roman poet Virgil was famous for his eclogues ­ explored aspects of Italian country life
The natural world linked with growth of individual consciousness ­ natural landscape
provides image of eternity and creative power
Love is able to flourish ­ rustic life makes it easier to see the `passions of the heart'
Pastoral characters are deeper ­ `a plainer and more emphatic language'
Rustic chores are enjoyable and undermining, allowing time for `perpetual erotic fantasies'
The Garden of Eden ­ a blissful state of Paradise, Adam and Eve banished due to sin ­
Gardens try to replicate lost innocence and beauty (key element of medieval literature)

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Duel function ­ retreat/recreation and work/production (ideally interchangeable)
Symbols of the apple and the serpent
Edenic-pastoral ­ relationship between God and Men, biblical imagery
Paradise Lost ­ one of few pastoral epics ever written ­ iconic
Focuses on Adam and Eve taking care of the garden
A Locus Amoneous ­ a beautiful place in nature ,connected with Eden
Time and death becomes an integral part of human existence
Spring representing new life and birth
Autumn old age
Winter death
Pastoral explores birth, death and aging…read more

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Marvell (died 1678, over a century before romantic era) was ahead of his time, advocating a
view of nature linked to Romanticism, rather than those of the forthcoming Age of
Enlightenment (1710-1770)
Pastoral literature does not always present a positive view on the natural world ­ poets can
present similar subjects from strikingly different perspectives
Harmony with nature can be questionable ­ the idea of nostalgia for a past which may not
have existed
Shepherds' lives overly-romantic and exaggerated ­ unrealistic? Accentuates charm,
lushness and…read more

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Rich became aware of potential of rural land
Urban sprawl
Authors elaborate on Theocritus and Virgil's original ideas to fit their own social
Current environmental crisis (Urban sprawl) has roots in renaissance ­ pastoral
literature still relevant today from a political angle
Virgil introduced politics ­ turbulence of revolution in Rome (38bc) disturbing idyllic
landscape…read more


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