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Soil on our hands

Written by Gretchen Gerzina for The Times Literary Supplement on Thursday, February 10, 2022

The title of Green Unpleasant Land by Corinne Fowler, one of the editors of that report, plays on William Blake’s “Jerusalem”, and Fowler’s subject is the way that British pastoral has always been linked to differing and shifting ideas of nature’s use, depiction and meaning. Behind it all, she shows, are money and its origins. Just as the enclosure laws changed the relation of the poor to the natural world, new money coming in from colonial sources steered landscape design, determining how many country houses were purchased or built and how they were furnished. For all the historical context Fowler gives, however, this is a literary book, whose measured subtitle – “Creative responses to rural England’s colonial connections” – prepares us for an exploration of how the countryside has been written about and who has done the writing.

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