The Anthropocene challenges the humanities to find means of representing and analysing our fossil-fueled practices that have spread industrial particulates over the entire globe, changed the climate, and reshaped landscapes into a “new nature.” In this essay, I propose the “dark pastoral” as an analytical trope, examining two framing texts from the Anthropocene: Goethe’s landmark 1797 pastoral German epic, Hermann and Dorothea, and Margaret Atwood’s 2003 postapocalyptic novel Oryx and Crake, the first installment of her MaddAddam trilogy which ends with a surprisingly pastoral flourish. At the early phases of the Anthropocene (as it is defined by Paul Crutzen, at least), Goethe creates an epic pastoral whose materiality points darkly towards the impending modernity of capitalism. Atwood’s, postapocalyptic versions of a damaged yet rejuvenating Earth directly dramatise the Anthropocene’s destruction while ending with a “new” pastoral that relies on an almost total obliteration of humanity: these are dark pastoral visions.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Sullivan, H. I. (2016). The dark pastoral: Goethe and Atwood. Green Letters, 20, 47-59. doi: 10.1080/14688417.2015.1116403