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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Pastoral poetry is one of the most prolific and least studied eighteenth-century poetic genres. For two centuries it was disregarded under the misapprehension created by prescriptive criticism that it is rule-governed and derivative, unnatural and effete. Nothing could be farther from the truth: the strong patterning typical of eighteenth-century pastoral verse was the means by which poets engaged rhetorically in a vigorous, century-long debate over the nature of poetry, history, and education, which had profound implications for the understanding of literature generally. The debate unfolded not through a small number of canonical works but through diverse series of minor poems which collectively altered the hierarchy of genres and laid the groundwork for modern discourses about genius, race, and nationality.

Keywords: poetry, pastoral, genre, nature, education

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