Journeys through nature: Dickens, anti-pastoralism and the country

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This article explores Dickens’ engagements with pastoral in The Old Curiosity Shop and other works, arguing that Dickens’ urban gaze makes him a poor cousin amongst nineteenth century nature writers, but an insightful reader of rural affairs. Dickens pursues, but ultimately resists and rejects, pastoral and picturesque urges because the conventions of these traditions efface or ignore the conditions of rural labour. Facing the poverty, inequality, and scarcity of the privatised, post-enclosure countryside of the 1840s, Dickens rejects the essential pastoral contrast between urban and rural by recognising that the countryside and the city exists in a co-dependent relationship within a dominant liberal economic order, and that the possibility of idyllic retreat is therefore impossible.
Original languageEnglish
Journal Représentations
VolumeJune 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • pastoral
  • Dickens
  • The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Oliver Twist
  • David Copperfield
  • landscape
  • rural
  • elegy
  • idyll


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