Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
How do the rituals of poetic language refashion and provision our creaturely needs for nourishment, shelter, and community at moments when these seem to overwhelm nature’s capacities? What are the spaces most sensitive to the incursion of new structures for thinking and displaying the self upon traditional forms that are local, communal, and sacred? And how does pastoral—the courtly literature of poet-shepherds—employ stylized, figurative landscapes to inscribe an ethics for inhabiting the natural environment? The systematic exploration of the world in the early modern period (ca. 1500–1700 AD) transformed how the human condition and its place in nature were represented in the topographies, natural histories, and herbals that I argue constituted an early modern practice of ecology. In this project, I argue that pastoral literature takes part in this practice, a position that challenges conventional interpretations of its landscapes as idealized backdrops that retreat from political and environmental concerns. I propose instead that as a form of ecological thought (that is, as a resource for apprehending nature and its relationship to the human), pastoral expresses not a withdrawal but an engagement with nature. The persistent invocation of a “third” nature—against first (organic, intrinsic) or second (cultural, habitual) natures—in the pastoral of early modern Spain represents an awareness of how its characters remake and renew their relationships to each other and to their surroundings: their habits of care and rituals of attention are not empty forms but respond meaningfully to their passage through a range of natural and built environments. Not just green pastures but sheepwalks and forests, wastelands and walled gardens, ruined cities and barren shores are some of the landscapes that embody the shepherds’ efforts to give voice to the complexity of desire, the fragility of memory, the pain of aging, the fluidity of gender, and the nature of community.
Dolph, Steve, "Third Nature: Landscape And Ethics In The Early Modern Iberian World" (2017). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2260.