My dissertation argues for a new approach to early modern pastoral literature, reading representations of bucolic life not as escapist fantasies or political allegories, but as working models capable of transforming culture. I consider how pastoral texts from this period can inform ecocriticism, a growing field that studies the relationship between literature and the environment. As a corrective to the view that all pastoral literature romanticizes and masks the reality of the people and places it represents, ecocritic Terry Gifford has articulated a theory of the post-pastoral. The "post" is conceptual rather than temporal; it refers to texts that move beyond the idealizing "traps" of pastoral convention, texts that defy the stereotypes associated with this literary mode. I use this critical tool to explore the work of three early modern authors for whom the pastoral is a resolutely forward-looking mode that offers alternatives to existing social structures: Anne-Marie Louise d'Orléans, duchesse de Montpensier, who imagines a "pastoral republic" in which the institution of marriage is abolished and women control their own destiny; Bernard le Bouvier de Fontenelle, who uses pastoral to introduce new scientific theories of nature; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who understands literary representations of nature and natural subjects to be powerful catalysts of social transformation.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. Major: French. Advisor: Juliette Cherbuliez. 1 computer file (PDF); iii, 232 pages.
Post-pastoral possibilities: nature and the literary imaginary in Early Modern France..
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