American Georgics

Writings on Farming, Culture, and the Land

Edited by Edwin C. Hagenstein, Sara M. Gregg, and Brian Donahue

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A rich and evocative collection of agrarian writing from the past two centuries, reflecting how shifting views on agriculture have shaped American society, from the first European settlers to the modern organic movement. 

From Thomas Jefferson's Monticello to Michelle Obama's White House organic garden, the image of America as a nation of farmers has persisted from the beginnings of the American experiment. In this rich and evocative collection of agrarian writing from the past two centuries, writers from Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur to Wendell Berry reveal not only the great reach and durability of the American agrarian ideal, but also the ways in which society has contested and confronted its relationship to agriculture over the course of generations.

Drawing inspiration from Virgil's agrarian epic poem, Georgics, this collection presents a complex historical portrait of the American character through its relationship to the land. From the first European settlers eager to cultivate new soil, to the Transcendentalist, utopian, and religious thinkers of the nineteenth century, American society has drawn upon the vision of a pure rural life for inspiration. Back-to-the-land movements have surged and retreated in the past centuries yet provided the agrarian roots for the environmental movement of the past forty years. Interpretative essays and a sprinkling of illustrations accompany excerpts from each of these periods of American agrarian thought, providing a framework for understanding the sweeping changes that have confronted the nation's landscape.

Edwin C. Hagenstein is a freelance editor and writer in Boston. Sara M. Gregg teaches U.S. and environmental history at the University of Kansas. Brian Donahue is associate professor of American environmental studies at Brandeis University and environmental historian at Harvard Forest.

“This volume considers an alternative vision of the United States from colonial Pennsylvania to Michael Pollan. Every document hits its mark.”—Steven Stoll, author of Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America

“This anthology in the ‘Yale Agrarian Studies’ series constitutes much more than the excerpts carefully selected from American agriculture’s agrarian lineage. The introductory essays preceding each chapter's selections explain almost as well as the excerpts themselves the difficulty of reducing American agrarianism to a form easily understood. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

"American Georgics is a gem, chock-full of essays and excerpts that are invaluable to an understanding of farming and conservation, and driven by a vision of what landscape and husbandry might become in the United States if we as a nation could think more holistically about what would most benefit us. It is also a wonderful resource for teaching and a step in the direction espoused by Leopold, Jackson and others in this anthology: that through dissemination of knowledge and better education, we might be able to redirect our culture toward a fuller appreciation of our fertile, fragile planet."—Christine Casson, American Scientist

“I like this anthology. It seems to me to capture the central themes and tensions in agrarian thinking in the U.S. . . . I especially appreciate that the editors have put together a relatively comprehensive sample of agrarian writings and placed them into their appropriate historical and social context. This is no small feat. . . . This collection . . . will prompt readers to think seriously about a variety of issues: what is 'liberty,' what does it mean to own property, what are the effects of working one's own land, what is the relationship between agriculture and industry, and what kind of society do we want and can we have, among many others.”—Bill Winders, author of The Politics of Food Supply: US Agricultural Policy in the World Economy

American Georgics is a superb introduction to America’s old and new agrarianism. The selections are wide-ranging and judicious and the editorial essays uniformly clear and illuminating. An indispensable resource.”—Norman Wirzba, author of The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age and Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating

“[A] handsome, useful volume, with a graceful foreword by Wes Jackson.”—Books in Heat

“[T]his thoughtful, superbly written, and well-constructed volume will be relevant and provocative for decades to come.”—Joshua Bowman, Anamnesis

“This impressive book makes a convincing claim for agrarianism as a key part of American tradition and as a still relevant guide to our relationship to the land.”—Donald Worster, author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
ISBN: 9780300188042
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
432 pages, 5 7/8 x 9
33 b/w illus.
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