The shepherd's song
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From its inception, pastoral literature has maintained a theatrical quality and an artificiality that not only resonate the escapist nature of the mode but underscore the metaliterary awareness of the author. A popular mode of writing in antiquity and the middle ages, pastoral reached its apex in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with works like Sannazaro‘s Arcadia, Tasso‘s Aminta, and Honoré d‘Urfé‘s Astrée. This study seeks to examine and elucidate the performative qualities of the pastoral imagination in Italian and French literature during its most popular period of expression, from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century. Selecting representative works including the pastourelles of Jehan Erart and Guiraut Riquier, the two vernacular pastoral works of Boccaccio, Sannazaro‘s Arcadia, Tasso‘s Aminta, and D‘Urfé‘s Astrée, I offer a comparative analysis of pastoral vernacular literature in France and Italy from the medieval period through the seventeenth century. Additionally, I examine the relationship between the theatricality of the works and their setting. Arcadia serves as a space of freedom of expression for the author. I posit that the pastoral realm of Arcadia is directly inspired not by the Greek mountainous region but by the Italian peninsula, thus facilitating the transposition of Arcadia into the author‘s own geographical area. A secondary concern is the motif of death and loss in the pastoral as a repeated commonplace within the mode. Each of these factors contributes to an understanding of the implicit contract that the author endeavors to forge with the reader, exhorting the latter to be active in the reading process.