‘Insidious Pollen’: Toxicity and the Post-Pastoral in J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine





J.A. Baker, The Peregrine, Toxicity, Post-pastoral, Deep Time, Nuclear Terror


This article discusses how J.A. Baker’s experimental nonfiction book The Peregrine (1967) responds to the dispersal of persistent toxic substances by distorting pastoral modes of expression. It also connects the text to contemporary literary and critical discussions of slow violence. I begin by historicizing The Peregrine in light of the politicized intersection of industrial toxicity and ecological science in 1960s Britain. I then consider how Baker braids many forms and genres, from field notation to science fiction, to represent troubling ecological alterations in 1960s Essex. An experimental and border-slipping text, drifting between disparate literary zones, The Peregrine restlessly unsettles certain expectations of the English landscape. Rural place, for the narrator of The Peregrine, does not offer any consolatory retreat from technological modernity. Rather, it confronts him with toxic residues generated by his society, with their lethal ecological activity, and with the prospect of their long-term persistence. This induces him to reckon with difficult questions of agency and responsibility, and to explore the narrative implications of a deep-time perspective. Responding to the destruction of the ecological conditions under which pastoral culture developed, Baker experimented with aesthetic modes and descriptive methods not usually associated with the literary evocation of nature.




How to Cite

Newton, R. (2021). ‘Insidious Pollen’: Toxicity and the Post-Pastoral in J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine. Ecocene: Cappadocia Journal of Environmental Humanities, 2(2), 146–162. https://doi.org/10.46863/ecocene.49



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