Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Deadline: “The Afterlives of Pastoral” (2/22/2014; 7/4-5/2014)

“The Afterlives of Pastoral”
University of Queensland
July 4-5, 2014
New Deadline: February 22, 2014

Since William Empson published his landmark Some Versions of Pastoral in 1935, the ancient mode that is pastoral has been re-visioned and re-analysed, and a range of scholarly readings has confirmed there is no easy or comfortable way of pinning down just how pastoral operates either in Virgil’s Eclogues or in the literature the poem has inspired since the Renaissance. Annabel Patterson in her Pastoral and Ideology: Virgil to Valéry (1987) focused on why Virgilian pastoral has echoed and continues to echo through western literary history, arguing “it is not what pastoral is that should matter to us”; what is far more useful is to consider “how writers, artists, and intellectuals of all persuasions have used pastoral for a range of functions and intentions that the Eclogues first articulated” (7; emphasis in original). In 1996, pastoral scholar Paul Alpers referred to “a happy confusion of definitions,” and with a linguistic nod to Empson, confirmed “there are as many versions of pastoral as there are critics and scholars who write about it” and that “‘pastoral’ can still be a word to conjure with” (What Is Pastoral? 8).

Over the last twenty-five years, there has been a resurgence of interest not only in the theory and criticism of pastoral but in literature that in various ways is in dialogue with the mode. For instance, Seamus Heaney self-consciously writes back to Virgil, and Stanley Fish has noted telling elements of pastoral in Suzanne Collins’s blockbuster trilogy The Hunger Games (2008–2010). Environmental criticism, too, has found a dialogue with this tradition to be a productive way of thinking about the human/nature relationships in which so many current environmental issues are embedded.

This symposium invites a dialogue on the afterlives of pastoral. It is inspired by the recent pastoral turn, by the questioning title of Alpers’s book, and by Patterson’s focus on the pastoral as literature in action. As Alpers reminds us, the pleasures of nymphs and shepherds and their herds are only ever the vehicle for a quite different, darker discourse: “the very notion of pastoral . . . represents a fantasy that is dissipated by the recognition of political and social realities” (24).

In this spirit, the organizers seek participants from a wide range of fields, including literature, the performing arts, music and other forms of cultural discourse that engage with the core of this ancient tradition.