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Pastoral, after History

Pastoral, after History

The Apple Orchard

Chapter 2 (p.36) Pastoral, after History
Romantic Things
Mary Jacobus
University of Chicago Press

The pastoral happens always after an event in history, where the meanings of what has passed flare up in the present, or else deliberately dulls and blurs it. Pastoral engages questions of history. In order to explore this, this chapter examines Seamus Heaney’s translation of Rilke’s poems “The Apple Orchard” and “After the Fire.” W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, on the other hand, speaks of the author’s visit to poet-translator Michael Hamburger, whose orchard and autobiographical memoir are interwoven with Sebald’s hybrid, quasi-fictionalized narrative. In these works, as in others mentioned in the chapter, pastoral is shown to be a form of historical knowledge that emerges in the wake of destruction. Pastoral should be differentiated with nostalgia, however, in that pastorals are necessarily “after history” because they are relocated in the historical present.

Keywords:   pastoral, Seamus Heaney, Rilke, Apple Orchard, After the Fire, W.G. Sebald, Rings of Saturn, Michael Hamburger

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