The Dark Pastoral: A Trope for the Anthropocene

  • Heather I. Sullivan
Part of the Literatures, Cultures, and the Environment book series (LCE)


This chapter addresses the challenges of portraying radically altered ecological systems as a human story in an era of global anthropogenic impact, exploring how to combine traditional literary tropes like the pastoral with more recent forms such as climate fiction. The dark pastoral trope builds on the pastoral’s long and rich, albeit problematic, literary tradition featuring human beings in highly aestheticized landscapes and re-contextualizes it within the Anthropocene’s dark drama of floods, earthquakes, storms, nuclear explosions, and climate change. Texts such as Goethe’s Werther, Kleist’s Earthquake in Chili, Storm’s The Dykemaster, Pausewang’s The Cloud, and Trojanow’s The Lamentations of Zeno posit various pastoral moments only to rupture and re-shape them with disasters that nevertheless highlight the human enmeshment with the non-human.


Nuclear Explosion Rural Landscape Cruise Ship White Horse Traditional Pastoral 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather I. Sullivan
    • 1
  1. 1.Trinity UniversitySan AntonioUSA

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