To which extent is ‘nature’ a cultural or discursive construct? The question seems paradoxical and intractable since ‘nature’ by definition opposes the very notion of constructedness or historicity; yet there are indications that each literary generation re-invents its own cultural horizon by re-interpreting a sense of non-culture and nature. In order to clarify this historical and conceptual paradox, the idea and literary treatment of nature and rusticity are sketchily surveyed from classical primitivism to the present day. The conclusion that suggests itself is that ‘nature’ is one of the strongest and most invariant topics in the Western imagination, exhibiting a good deal of consistency through changing periods and literary fashions. If there is anything paradoxical about the link between nature and contemporary (‘postmodern’) literary culture, it lies largely in the fact that this follows after a period (Modernism) which was unusually averse to a celebration of nature and rusticity.
Food provision and diet belong to the fundamental cultural patterns that mark a society, and are often foregrounded as salient experiences in intercultural encounters. This is also the case in one of the most long-standing intercultural confrontations in European history: that between Ireland and England. Some discursive thematizations of Irish diet (whisky, dairy, potatoes, famine) are traced in this article, both in their historical context and in their rhetorical function.