A Pastoral Reading of Christina Stead’s Cotters’ England
With specific reference to Virgil’s Eclogues, Paul Alpers argues that ‘the poetics of pastoral can tell us something about poetics in general’ (The Singer of the Eclogues 6). He equates song with voice when he discusses aspects of the poetics of voice in Virgilian pastoral, including, ‘self-representation, self-reflexiveness, and the community implied by the song’ (6). In this essay, I explore the poetics of voice in a modern novel, Christina Stead’s Cotters’ England (1966), and highlight links between voice in Stead’s novel and the Eclogues. The discussion of voice leads to a second point, that Stead’s writing treats the particular and the general in ways that recall Virgil’s pastoral poems. In the course of this argument, I also discuss the treatment of the idyllic, and the contrasts and tensions between city and country, in Cotters’ England.