Amanda Lohrey's Vertigo: An Australian Pastoral
This essay is grounded in William Empson’s view of the pastoral tradition as deeply concerned with social relations – with how we live in the world and with each other – and in the conviction that the pastoral is again appearing as an enabling mode of expression, especially in the midst of the issues of our time that surround human relationships with the non-human world. Amanda Lohrey’s Vertigo: A Pastoral is a work of refined artistry shaped by a genre that continues to be capable of acting in our imaginative life as a powerful mode of storytelling. Much has been written in recent times, particularly in the context of Australian literature, about the idea of an ‘anti-pastoral’, and Terry Gifford’s term ‘post-pastoral’ is applied to the adaptation of the tradition to contemporary environmental concerns. While these are significant lines of thought, I want to argue that they risk preventing us from seeing the deeply rooted value of basic strategies of traditional pastoral. Lohrey’s novella points to ways in which pastoral can usefully be seen as a continuing and adaptable set of ideas. It illustrates, too, the particular energies that are generated when, as Paul Alpers argues in his discussion of pastoral narration, ‘pastoral usages and modes of representation are affected by appearing in prose fiction’ (324).
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