William Empson (essay date 1935)
SOURCE: “Proletarian Literature,” in Some Versions of Pastoral, New Directions, 1968, pp. 11-15.
[In the following excerpt from a work first published in 1935, Empson contends that pastoral literature reflects an impulse to clarify difficult issues by restating them in terms spoken by common folk, thus emphasizing their universal nature.]
The essential trick of the old pastoral, which was felt to imply a beautiful relation between rich and poor. was to make simple people express strong feelings (felt as the most universal subject, something fundamentally true about everybody) in learned and fashionable language (so that you wrote about the best subject in the best...
(The entire section is 1081 words.)