Ken Hiltner's book is part of a welcome turn in early modern English studies toward ecocriticism. Focusing on Renaissance pastoral, he engages a scholarly heavyweight, Paul Alpers, whose seminal What Is Pastoral? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997) insisted on the genre's complex sociopolitical tensions. Hiltner asks, after Alpers: what else is pastoral? The answer, he argues, is that pastoral is also produced by the nonhuman environments of its writers: it is “often a form of nature writing” (p. 1).

Anticipating objections of anachronism, Hiltner points out that nature does not, in the Renaissance, mean wilderness, and that nature writing does not necessarily entail explicit descriptions of surroundings. Rather than describing places, pastoral “gestures” toward them. We develop...

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