William Welstead
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Natureculture in pastoralism and the literary pastoral
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For many ecocritics any consideration of the pastoral has to be referred back to classical texts. The third chapter follows this line of enquiry, but with a new reading in the light of the animal turn, that explores the type of relationships these ancient shepherds had with their sheep. Pastoral literature has been a fertile, but also contentious, field for ecocritical analysis. Agriculturalists’ understanding of pastoral is equally problematic. The aim of this chapter is to find a place for sheep in pastoral literature and also to refresh ecocriticism by going back to source in terms of what pastoralism means for ecologists, agriculturalists and land managers. Pastoralism as agricultural practice is now more or less synonymous with naturalistic or extensive grazing and transhumance. The changing pattern of pastoralism over time is traced from the nomadic travels of ancient shepherds with their flocks, to transhumance between winter and summer grazing, to the role of sheep in mixed (livestock and arable) farming during the agricultural improvements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There is a brief discussion of how new readings can complicate our understanding of poems from the pastoral canon.

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Writing on sheep

Ecology, the animal turn and sheep in poetry


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