Pastoral is a succinct and up-to-date introductory text to the history, major writers and critical issues of this genre. Terry Gifford clarifies the different uses of pastoral covering:
• the history of the genre from its classical origins to Elizabethan drama, through eighteenth-century pastoral poetry to contemporary American nature writing
• the pastoral impulse of retreat and return, beginning with constructions of Arcadia and using a combination of close reading of quoted texts, cultural studies and eco-criticism
• post-pastoral texts with a look at writers, who Gifford argues, have discovered ways of reconnecting us with our natural environment.