Pastoral Novel: Definition and Examples

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      Pastoral Novel presents the society of shepherds as free from the complexity and corruption of city life. Many of the idylls written in this novel are far remote from the realities of any life, rustic or urban. Among the writers who have used the pastoral convention with striking success and vitality are the classical poets Theocritus and Virgil and the English poets Edmund Spenser, Robert Herrick, John Milton, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Matthew Arnold. The pastoral novel emerged after bucolic lyrics, epic poems, and dramas had already been composed. This type of novel has its roots in antiquity and experienced a revival in the entire European Renaissance and Baroque. Although much maligned since the Enlightenment, pastoral novels often provide significant insights into the development of literature and poetic diction as well as important glimpses of societal mores and conflicts.

      Although there was no classical precedent for the form, it drew some inspiration from ancient Greek novels set in the countryside, such as Daphnis and Chloe. Longus’ Dciphnis and Chloe, written in Greek in the 2nd or 3rd century CE, was the remote progenitor of such Elizabethan pastoral romances as Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (1590) and Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde (1590), the source book for Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The image of a rural Eden is a persistent in the novels of D. H. Lawrence, such as Rainbow (1915) and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). The more realistic and ironic pictures of the pastoral life, with poverty and pig dung are often exhibited in such novels. George Eliot and Thomas Hardy both cultivated some pastoral scenarios in their novels. The increasing stresses of urban life make the country vision a theme still available to serious fiction.

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