Some Versions Of Pastoral
Literature by William Empson
Like the author’s Seven Types of Ambiguity, to which it is a successor, Some Versions of Pastoral is considered a landmark of modern literary criticism. In it Mr. Empson sees the pastoral convention as including not only poems of shepherd life but any work “about the people but not by or for” them. Finding examples in the writing of every country and century, from Mencius to William Faulkner or Céline, he concentrates on an analysis of certain works and forms in English literature, several of them, like Alice in Wonderland, Troilus and Cressida, and proletarian novels not traditionally considered pastoral. His chapter on Milton and Bentley is a precursor of Mr. Empson’s 1961 book, Milton’s God. With virtuoso clarity and perception throughout he brings the student to a new awareness of hidden values in individual works and to the creative possibilities of the language.