Modernising Pastorals?

The Olive Field and Thirties Leftist Pastoral

in Critical Survey

William Empson famously suggested in his book Some Versions of Pastoral (1935) that ‘good proletarian art is usually Covert Pastoral’.1 This comment, and the discussion which follows it, has a good deal of characteristic Empsonian provocation and idiosyncrasy, and has rarely been pursued with seriousness by 1930s critics. Thus Valentine Cunningham says that this ‘cheeky dodge’ of Empson’s is at least half-serious, but is more inclined to emphasise the playful half of the intention