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What Is Pastoral? [Paperback]

Paul Alpers
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

June 1, 1997 0226015173 978-0226015170
One of the enduring traditions of Western literary history, pastoral is often mischaracterized as a catchall for literature about rural themes and nature in general. In What Is Pastoral?, distinguished literary historian Paul Alpers argues that pastoral is based upon a fundamental fiction—that the lives of shepherds or other socially humble figures represent the lives of human beings in general.

Ranging from Virgil's Eclogues to Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, from Shakespeare and Cervantes to Hardy and Frost, this work brings the story of the pastoral tradition, previously limited to classical and Renaissance literature, into the twentieth century. Pastoral reemerges in this account not as a vehicle of nostalgia for some Golden Age, nor of escape to idyllic landscapes, but as a mode bearing witness to the possibilities and problems of human community and shared experience in the real world.

A rich and engrossing book, What Is Pastoral? will soon take its place as the definitive study of pastoral literature.

"Alpers succeeds brilliantly. . . . [He] offers . . . a wealth of new insight into the origins, development, and flowering of the pastoral."—Ann-Maria Contarino, Renaissance Quarterly

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What Is Pastoral? + Some Versions of Pastoral (New Directions Paperbook) + Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226015173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226015170
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What, indeed....? November 17, 2000
Paul Alpers approaches one of the most complex questions in literary criticism. The text is a theoretical consideration of the epistemology of pastoral text as mode and genre. The study is highly rooted in traditional conceptions of pastoral, and his historical perspective of genre evolution is a bit myopic at times. Nevertheless Alpers is an excellent scholar of pastoral and his study is one of the best in the criticism. The student will learn a lot of what pastoral really IS from Alpers, drawing primarily from representative anecdotes of antique pastoral.
Unfortunately he never really comes close to actually answering his question ("What is pastoral?") in a definitive or convincing way. Furthermore his prose, while urbane, is at times perplexing; which is to say, sometimes it's hard to tell what he's really talking about. I had to read this book twice and it's a long one; furthermore I really think I should read it a third time. For the student who wants a quick and easier study, I would recommend Gifford's "Pastoral." This text is definately interesting for academic audiences in literary criticism, but probably not the general reading public.
Christopher Miezio-Teggatz University of Wisconsin Dept. of African Languages and Literatures
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