Friday, June 3, 2011

CFP: Cosmopolitics and the Radical Pastoral

Greg Garrard coined the term “radical pastoral” in a special issue of
Studies in Romanticism published in 1996.Garrard contrasted New Historicist and Ecocritical readings of William Wordsworth, Henry Thoreau, and other Romantics, and he identified “the radical problem of pastoral: It may cloud our social vision, or open out a human ecological one; it may help in the marginalization of nature into ‘pretty ghettoes’ or engender a genuine counter-hegemonic ideology.” What does this fundamental multivalence mean for the environmental imagination now, given the decisive globalization of both corporate power and ecosocial destruction in the 21st century? In a world of mega-slums, unnatural disasters, CAFOs, and gated green retreats, can the pastoral engender “cosmopolitical” awarenesses and practices of the kind that Isabelle Stengers claims can “slow down the construction of the common world [and] create a space of hesitation regarding what it means to say “good.’” Can the pastoral point not to a final transcendent “peace” of one globe, but to dynamic and unstable articulations and resistances among multiple and divergent worlds? Does the archive of pastoralism, from transatlantic Romanticism forward, still contain what Raymond Williams called “resources of hope”?


  1. It might be useful for us to consider the history of pastoral in Western philosophy. It's interesting to note, for instance, that the PHAEDRUS, the dialogue in which Socrates leaves the city in order to discover the nature of love, is marginalized in the tradition of post-Enlightenment rationalism. There is something about Socrates being forced to recant by his daimon as he crosses a stream that is offensive to rationalism. At the same time, the pastoral excursion as revelation is a foundational trope for Anglo-American nature writing. This tension about the significance of pastoral experience is worth a second look.

  2. I've been thinking about the history of pastoral too, especially with reference to Raymond Williams' "nostalgic escalator." One way to read the evidence he amasses in _The Country and the City_ is to say that it shows a pattern of self-deception over time. The other is that it is the product a sustained campaign of cultural resistance to a relentless process.