Sub-Versions of Pastoral: Nature, Satire and the Subject of Ecology


  • Chris Coughran The University of Melbourne


metafiction, ecology, nature


One of the strengths of ecocriticism is its evolving multi-valency. This essay revisits a core stream of inquiry – the pastoral tradition in America – by interrogating the relationship between romantic and satirical pastoral and teasing out a paradox lurking in the idea of “Nature’s Nation.” Via a late essay of Kenneth Burke on satire and novels of Gilbert Sorrentino and Richard Brautigan, it examines ways in which satiric pastoral texts disturb the roots of American subjectivity onto which the ideological conceit of “Nature’s Nation” was grafted. It also attempts to show how, within the framework of ecocritical analysis, the pastoral, far from being merely a usefully invoked trope, becomes the progenitor and enabler (the sine qua non) of various fantasies of national or regional identity as these are routinely enacted, improvised, and—as the case may be—parodied and burlesqued.

Author Biography

Chris Coughran, The University of Melbourne

Conorary Research Fellow, School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne




How to Cite

Coughran, C. (2010). Sub-Versions of Pastoral: Nature, Satire and the Subject of Ecology. Journal of Ecocriticism, 2(2), 14–29. Retrieved from