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Modernising Pastorals? The Olive Field and Thirties Leftist Pastoral

Chris Hopkins


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

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