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The Other Vanishing American: Disappearing Farmers in American Literature, 1887-1939.


Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/17485

The Other Vanishing American: Disappearing Farmers in American Literature, 1887-1939.

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dc.contributor.author Kuchera, Carolyn
dc.date.accessioned 2012-02-01T18:18:25Z
dc.date.available 2012-02-01T18:18:25Z
dc.date.issued 2012-02-01
dc.date.submitted December 2011
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/1928/17485
dc.description.abstract Beginning in the late nineteenth century, literary depictions of farmers borrow from the established trope of the “Vanishing American” Indian to portray farmers as disappearing before the forces of modern civilization. I argue that writing about farmers from this era ought to be approached as a type of extinction discourse: the rhetoric surrounding the decline of a race or culture. Extinction discourse, whether applied to the American Indian or to farmers, fuses mourning over a passing way of life with celebration of civilization’s progress. Farmers are portrayed as primitive figures, as fundamentally incompatible with modern civilization, in all of the fiction included in this study: Joseph Kirkland’s Zury (1887), Hamlin Garland’s “Up the Coolly” (1891) and “The Silent Eaters” (1923), John T. Frederick’s Druida (1923) and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939). While the works vary in their valuations of primitivism, alternately favoring the nostalgic or the progressive impulse, the farmer vanishes nonetheless. For the purposes of this study,“vanishing” signifies not so much a sociological fact as a representational act performed in response to a perceived loss.Literary constructions of the vanishing farmer are performative: they help produce the condition (disappearance) that they subsequently describe. The rhetorical origins of industrial agriculture are rooted in this disappearance. The developing reactions to the farmer’s “disappearance” and the varying rhetorical forms of those reactions are the focus of this study, which is contextualized through historical and sociological information. The divergent ideologies of nostalgia displayed in the fiction illustrate particular modern anxieties, while shadows or traces of Indian presence within these texts reveal a buried legacy of removal within Western expansion. This analysis also shows how portrayals of vanishing farmers often preserve the racialist logic of extinction discourse, wherein race contributes to extinction. The conclusion suggests a future direction for the literary analysis of farmers, arguing that they can be most productively approached as ghosts through Jacques Derrida’s theory of the “trace” and Toni Morrison’s notion of the shadow. With its focus on the decline, and sometimes disparagement, of agrarian America, this dissertation counters the dominant critical narrative that associates American virtue and civilization with rural values. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.subject primitive en_US
dc.subject farmers en_US
dc.subject extinction en_US
dc.subject vanishing en_US
dc.subject nineteenth century en_US
dc.subject early twentieth century en_US
dc.subject rural en_US
dc.subject Other en_US
dc.subject Hamlin Garland en_US
dc.subject Grapes of Wrath en_US
dc.subject Joseph Kirkland en_US
dc.subject John T. Frederick en_US
dc.subject trace en_US
dc.subject American Indians en_US
dc.subject nostalgia en_US
dc.subject industrial agriculture en_US
dc.subject progress en_US
dc.subject western expansion en_US
dc.subject.lcsh Farmers in literature
dc.subject.lcsh Farm life in literature
dc.subject.lcsh Agriculture in literature
dc.subject.lcsh American literature--19th century--History and criticism
dc.subject.lcsh American literature--20th century--History and criticism
dc.title The Other Vanishing American: Disappearing Farmers in American Literature, 1887-1939. en_US
dc.type Dissertation en_US
dc.description.degree English en_US
dc.description.level Doctoral en_US
dc.description.department University of New Mexico. Dept. of English en_US
dc.description.advisor Scharnhorst, Gary
dc.description.advisor Aleman, Jesse
dc.description.committee-member Harrison, Gary
dc.description.committee-member Carafiol, Peter

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