Towards the Post-Pastoral: A New Materialist Reading of Richard Jefferies’s Amaryllis at the Fair


  • Adrian Tait Independent Scholar



New materialism, Industrial modernity, Richard Jefferies, Amaryllis, Agency, Materiality


Published just before Richard Jefferies’s death in 1887, Amaryllis at the Fair embodies many of the defining features of the classical pastoral, including a backward glance to a “golden age” of rural prosperity, an Arcadian setting, the themes of retreat, renewal, return, and amorous upheaval. If, however, we re- examine the novel with a new materialist attentiveness to the entanglement of humans and nonhumans, mindful that matter is itself agential, we begin to recognise some of the myriad ways in which the novel also exceeds, contests, or contradicts its own pastoral identity. Notably, the novel demonstrates its attentiveness to the “little things,” and like new materialism itself, it posits them not as inert and passive or as mere manifestations of the subordinate realm of the “other,” but as an agential and co-constitutive presence. In so doing, the novel opens up an oppositional, ecocritical response to the newly emergent condition of industrial modernity that defines the wider context of Jefferies’s work. Here, the pastoral in the novel operates as both a pantheistic challenge to secularisation and as a proto-ecological challenge to the risk experienced by industrial societies. In other words, the pastoral is more than mere literary whimsy or idealised obfuscation, but mutable, adaptive, and agential, a material-discursive formation whose enduring relevance and power to command our interest is a function of its rootedness in the realities that modernity might disavow but can never finally escape.




How to Cite

Tait, A. (2021). Towards the Post-Pastoral: A New Materialist Reading of Richard Jefferies’s Amaryllis at the Fair. Ecocene: Cappadocia Journal of Environmental Humanities, 2(2), 134–145.



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