Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arts and Sciences
Dr. Randall Roorda
This dissertation surveys agrarian literature written by American writers since World War II. It compares the Southern Agrarians of Vanderbilt University and New Agrarians such as Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, and Gene Logsdon to examine their understanding of place and home. I begin my inquiry with a personal frame story of time I have spent in and around the sustainable agriculture movement. Drawing on various forms of literature, including memoirs, cookbooks, novels, reportage, and other scholarship, I explore American ideals since World War II relating to the production and consumption of food.
I begin my opening chapter with a reassessment of the Southern Agrarians of Vanderbilt University as a starting off point in a defense of small-scale agriculture, organic farming, and the local food movement as antidotes for the excess of industrial capitalism. I put three members of the erstwhile group in conversation with green critics Lawrence Buell and Murray Bookchin as a way to wring emancipatory power from their argument and assess what can be reclaimed in the twenty-first century. In my second chapter, I question the New Agrarian call to stay home, examining the idea of drudgery in farming by comparing Paul Shephard’s Nature and Madnessto Wendell Berry, Gene Logsdon, Wes Jackson, and Joel Salatin’s defense of agriculture. The chapter continues with examples of small-scale agricultural practices that exemplify a more correct relationship with nature, such as seed saving, by exploring the traditional practices of Gary Nabhan, Janisse Ray, Bill Best, before turning to Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation. My last chapter continues with an assessment of various people in the contemporary agrarian movement in a discussion of privilege, equity, and accessibility. Next, I look to agrarian traditions of the past by appraising what was lost in the Great Migration through Harriette Arnow’s The Dollmakerand Edna Lewis’s cookbook, The Taste of Country Cookingbefore concluding the chapter with a discussion of present-day Detroit.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Gorum, Robert M., "Wisdom From the Collard Field: Exploring Agrarian Community in Twenty and Twenty-first Century American Literature" (2021). Theses and Dissertations--English. 127.