Vellum, Visions and Pastoral Transpositions

Kylie Crane


Bringing together the visual, the literary and the material, ‘pastoral’ is a complex concept. It has idyllic and labour-intensive connotations, alludes to the religious and the agricultural, and has specific generic traditions as well as often less clearly articulated quotidian uses. The analyses of Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth and J.M. Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K trace the transposition of pastoral into the Australian and South African contexts respectively, showing the ways in which various interpretations and uses of the pastoral inform and is informed by the politics of the novels. In particular, attention is paid to the paradigm of visuality, of seeing and of being seen, of landscape and landscaping, and of the power positions entailed by these practices. Pastoral, anti-pastoral, post-pastoral; as legal term, landscape tradition, land-use practice: The metaphor of vellum picks up on all of these characteristics as a leitmotif for reading postcolonial pastoral as deference to as well as difference from pastoral traditions.


J.M. Coetzee, Andrew McGahan, Pastoral, Postcolonial Theory, Visual Culture

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549