Sheep are marginalised in literary criticism and in discussion of pastoral literature. Writing on Sheep brings an animal studies approach to poetry about sheep that allows for the agency of these sentient beings, that have been associated for humans over ten thousand years. This approach highlights the distinction between wild and domesticated species and the moral dilemma between the goals of animal welfare and those of saving species from extinction. Discussion of mostly contemporary poetry follows a new reading of works from the pastoral and georgic canon. Allowing for the sentience and sociality of this species makes it easier to imagine a natureculture within which to make kin across the species boundary. Reading poetry about sheep has the power to make new meanings as we try to adapt to an increasingly complex and problematic environment.
List of plates
1. The animal turn and ecocriticism
2. Writing wildness: the Soay sheep of St Kilda
3. Natureculture in pastoralism and the literary pastoral
4. Culture and sheep in the English Lakeland
5. 'Green Desert' or 'Living Landscape': sheep and people in the Welsh uplands
6. Sheep and contested land use in Scotland
7. Competing narratives on the farm and in poetry: Ted Hughes and Kay Syrad
8. Colonial sheep
9. Sheep and poetry in a heating world
William Welstead is an independent scholar based on the Isle of Tiree.