Patrick kavanagh and antipastoral

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4 Scopus citations


Iʾm the only man who has written in our time about rural Ireland from the inside. (Patrick Kavanagh, 1949) ʿPastoralʾ has been defined in a variety of ways, and has been said to include the ʿantipastoralʾ, though some readers will wish to make a rigid distinction between the two, while recognising that both are intimately related. Traditionally, pastoral is a matter of rural life and shepherds, idyllic landscapes in which people corrupted by court and city life are changed and renewed. It suggests a healing antithesis to the corrupting influence of urban experience, but has been characterised simply as poetry of the countryside (however defined), and does not always envision an idealised and falsified, conflict-free zone, transcending the tensions of history, though it can do that, too. ʿAntipastoralʾ, on the other hand, suggests a poetics of undermining, in which pastoral conventions are deployed or alluded to, in order to suggest or declare the limitations of those conventions, or their downright falsity. If pastoral suggests that rural life offers freedom, antipastoral may proclaim it is a prison-house, and the farmers slaves. Historically, antipastoral has been associated with Goldsmithʾs The Deserted Village (1770) and George Crabbeʾs The Village (1783), with certain poems of John Clare, and with Stephen Duck who, in The Thresherʾs Labour (1736) wrote, ʿNo fountains murmur here, no Lambkins play, / No Linnets warble, and no Fields look gayʾ. A defining feature of such poetry has been its realistic treatment of labour, protest against idealising poetic traditions, and in some cases outcry against political conditions related to land enclosure.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780511999048
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2003 and Cambridge University Press, 2006.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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