"Civil Wildness": England's American Dream and the Redefinition of the Pastoral Ideal
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This project analyzes the intersections between idealized representations of nature in both pastoral literature and early modern exploration literature published before the establishment of England's first successful American colony at Jamestown in 1607. Scholars have often seen the use of the golden age trope by early modern explorers of the Americas as nothing more than propaganda. At the same time, in literary studies, scholars have not done enough to appreciate the symbolic potential of idealized landscapes. By examining the landscapes depicted in both types of texts, this project seeks to change how we view pastoral settings. These settings reveal more than just fantasy landscapes; they tell us about English attitudes towards humanity's place in the natural world. Rather than offering overly sentimentalized, naïve representations of nature, authors depict pastoral settings that idealize labor, including a georgic trope for its ability to shape and control the natural world. Labor, then, not leisure becomes the new ideal for pastoral works, as it is through cultivation and the establishment of "place" that the English feel that they can demonstrate power and sovereignty.