Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The province of Arcadia or Arcady, in the Greek Peloponnesus, was never hospitable to husbandry or much else; but its function as a locus for nostalgia is important. The popular dream of Arcadia derives from Virgil, who conceived of it as a happy land in which pastoral virtues triumphed, men and women lived in harmony, and death did not seem to intrude.

The only version available until the 20th century of the prose romance Arcadia (rev 1593) by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) is, though not fantastic, an important Taproot Text because it presents with great and mannered thoroughness a nostalgic vision of a secular but blessed Golden Age. Its plot is extremely complicated and artificial, and Sidney never completed the much-elaborated second version of the tale which he worked on until his death; consequently Sidney's unfinished narrative has never served as more than an abstract model for later writers to build upon. But Arcadia itself, a Polder hovering at the edge of the fantastic, has always been an important locus for that nostalgia urban sophisticates feel for enclaves safe from the historical processes which give them the opportunity to relish their emotions (see Et in Arcadia Ego; Golden Age). [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.