Taylor Swift could do "Works and Days,” but could Hesiod do “Folklore?”
Cottagecore, an aesthetic that romanticizes the simple quietude of rural life, was primed to experience a spike in interest during the pandemic. In a world where we now have to sequester ourselves away from a world wracked by an insidious virus, what if that sequestering could be on a homestead that’s imbued with beauty and safety thanks to its remote position in the heart of the natural world?
This internet-age idealization of wholesome rural life is the latest permeation of the pastoral genre, a set of themes and motifs that stretches back over two millennia. The pastoral genre specifically emphasizes the lifestyle of shepherds but can be broadly identified as idealizing a rural lifestyle that eschews any mention of the real-life difficulties and practicalities of herding livestock. (Though, as an escapist fantasy, you could do a lot worse than dreaming of tending a blooming garden and doing the thing from movies where you trail your fingers against fields of gold-hued wheat.) Indeed, such literature, music, and visual art have had a tendency to play to audiences far removed from that lifestyle and even the countryside. Not unlike today’s city dwellers scrolling through pictures of softly-photographed orchards and carefully-arranged picnic spreads from the confines of cramped apartments, everyone from the poets of ancient Greece to the French royal court at the height of its decadence have been drawn to the fantasy of pastoral escape.