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Leo Marx: The Machine in the G

             Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York 1964).
             Leo Marx" The Machine in the Garden is considered one of the landmarks in American cultural/literary studies. Whereas Marx" study is on the one hand part of a long tradition, highlighting the contrast between the ideal Arcadia and the corrupting influences of civilization, it was innovative in the sense that it introduced to American studies an intriguing thesis about the role of the pastoral topos in American culture and literature - although already following the footsteps of Henry Nash Smith and his analysis of the "Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth" (first published in 1950, walking in a slightly different direction).
             In chapter 1, Marx establishes his basic thesis: the intrusion of the machine into the natural idyllic (bucolic) landscape is a constitutive motif in American "culture" (here, his conceptual definition is rather blurred, cf. p.4: "the region where literature, general ideas, and certain products of the collective imagination meet"). Literary expressions range from Washington Irving to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Melville (Moby Dick), and Twain (Huckleberry Finn), to "contemporaries" such as Fitzgerald (cf. chapter VI: "Epilogue: The Garden of Ashes"), John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath) and William Faulkner ("The Bear") (p.16). Marx argues even further that the pastoral ideal in the general sense has become "a distinctively American theory of society", and has been transformed under the "impact of industrialism" (p.4). .
             The "fresh green breast" of the American continent had held the promise of a "retreat to an oasis of harmony" (p.3) as expressed in Virgil's Eclogues. Americans had believed that they had the chance to make a fresh start, leave "corrupt Europe" behind, and make the "poetic fantasy" (p.3) come true. Thus, Marx argues, the pastoral ideal was removed from its initial literary context, entered American rhetoric, and became a pillar of American self-perception, self-definition and cultural expression.

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