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The Midwestern Pastoral: Place and Landscape in Literature of the American Heartland
by William Barillas
Ohio University Press, 2006
eISBN: 978-0-8214-4201-2 | Cloth: 978-0-8214-1660-0
Library of Congress Classification PS273.B37 2006
Dewey Decimal Classification 810.93217340977


The midwestern pastoral is a literary tradition of place and rural experience that celebrates an attachment to land that is mystical as well as practical, based on historical and scientific knowledge as well as personal experience. It is exemplified in the poetry, fiction, and essays of writers who express an informed love of the nature and regional landscapes of the Midwest.

Drawing on recent studies in cultural geography, environmental history, and mythology, as well as literary criticism, The Midwestern Pastoral: Place and Landscape in Literature of the American Heartland relates Midwestern pastoral writers to their local geographies and explains their approaches. William Barillas treats five important Midwestern pastoralists—Willa Cather, Aldo Leopold, Theodore Roethke, James Wright, and Jim Harrison—in separate chapters. He also discusses Jane Smiley, U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, Paul Gruchow, and others.

For these writers, the aim of writing is not merely intellectual and aesthetic, but democratic and ecological. In depicting and promoting commitment to local communities, human and natural, they express their love for, their understanding of, and their sense of place in the American Midwest. Students and serious readers, as well as scholars in the growing field of literature and the environment, will appreciate this study of writers who counter alienation and materialism in modern society.

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