"American Georgics" by Brian Donahue

American Georgics Writings on Farming, Culture, and the Land Brian Donahue, Edwin C. Hagenstein, Sara M. Gregg

Yale Agrarian Studies Series
Publication date:
25 Sep 2012
Yale University Press
432 pages: 229 x 149mm
33 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Buy this eBook

You can purchase this title from a number of online retailers:

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.

"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