1st Edition

The New Pastoral in Contemporary British Writing

By Deborah Lilley Copyright 2020
    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book identifies a major turn in contemporary British literature in response to environmental crisis. It argues that the pastoral is emerging as a new critical framework in which to explore the understanding of people and place in this context.

    The New Pastoral in Contemporary British Writing explores how the pastoral tradition has transformed as authors respond to our changing relationships with place in this period. Analysing the features common to new pastoral writing, it brings together a corpus of works from major authors including Ali Smith, Jim Crace, John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie, and Robert Macfarlane. This book argues that crises such as pollution and climate change have shifted our understandings of the key relationships of pastoral and the terms upon which they are based, giving new senses to its older oppositions between the human and the natural, the urban and the rural, and the past and the present. Furthermore, it shows that the versions of pastoral that ensue align with current ecocritical arguments produced by thinking through the individual, cultural, and ecological implications of environmental crisis. As a result, pastoral emerges as the crucial strategy in the re-imagining of the environment underway in contemporary British writing, the resurgence of interest in nature writing, the increasing attention towards place in literary fiction, and the development of ecological or ‘climate’ fiction.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of English as well as those concerned with the interdisciplinary topics of the environmental humanities, including literary geographies, new nature writing, cultures of climate change and the Anthropocene, and ecologically-oriented theory.


    1. Pastoral and Ecology in Contemporary British Writing 

    2. Taking Care: Pastoral and New British Nature Writing 

    3. Pastoral Relations: People, Place, and Nature in Contemporary British Literary Fiction 

    4. Uncertain Nature: Environmental Crisis in Pastoral 

    5. Conclusion: The New Pastoral in Twenty-First Century Britain


    Deborah Lilley has taught at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the University of San Francisco

    "Lilley’s book is a vital contribution to ecocritical scholarship of the British Isles. Encompassing both the new nature writing and literary fiction, it blends the bracing skepticism of Timothy Morton’s Ecology without Nature with the recuperative and progressive energies of previous contributions to social ecology such as Raymond Williams’s Towards 2000. Above all, it demonstrates the continuing relevance of pastoral in an era of multiple overlapping ecological and political crises."Greg Garrard, Professor of Environmental Humanities, University of British Columbia, Canada

    "Lilley offers a concise and compelling account of how contemporary authors have reimagined and repurposed the pastoral in a time of global environmental degradation. This book is essential reading for any scholar interested in how traditional forms of literature have become freshly pertinent in the Anthropocene." Adeline Johns-Putra, University of Surrey, UK