Farms & Agrarian Literature

Entering the Masters program at [redacted] State University, I was returning from two years in Europe, homesick for the West, and vaguely interested in Wallace Stegner’s ideas of place and home. Enjoying the academy, I began collaborating with professors: annotating letters for [redacted]’s forthcoming second volume of [redacted], and teaching first year writing courses: English 101 and 102. I led sections of American and British literature classes under Profs. [redacted] and [redacted]—an unusual opportunity at [redacted] State. I also presented on intertextuality in Stegner at University of [redacted], Stegner and eros at the [redacted] conference 2011, and on agrarian narratives at University of [redacted] in 2012.

My interest in Stegner and the West led me to explore the relationship between desire, knowledge, and land. While working as editorial assistant to book review editor [redacted] for the journal [redacted] I got to sample ecocritical scholarship–including a few books on agriculture as the practical intersection of knowledge, culture, and land. This led me to a small but passionate scholarly conversation focused on “agrarian” literature.

Looking for practical agricultural texts, I uncovered a popular 1864 farm pamphlet, Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris. I saw clear claims about knowledge, land, and “the good life”—I thought of Thoreau and current ecocritical concerns tied to the 19th Century. In my portfolio I explored Morris’s popular claim of farm-based economic freedom in conversation with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. These texts indicate and illuminate a historical and ideological shift: from farming as a dominant cultural force to subversive counterculture.

I also studied German as an undergraduate, and translation at [redacted] State. This September, I was awarded the prestigious [redacted] Prize for Young Translators by the [redacted] Institute for my translation of the opening chapter of [redacted]’s [redacted]. Through translating, I continued to engage with German theory and philosophy, and found useful thinking about human relationships to the world.

I continue to study Thoreau and 19th-century American literature. But my varied interests—including what Prof. [redacted] calls “New Agrarianism,” classical literature and philosophy, new historical criticism, and German thought—are united by knowledge, identity, and place.

I work seasonally as a hired hand on a local farm. I teach literature, composition, and a philosophy-based humanities course as an active member of the English department at [redacted] State. I am revising an article (on Stegner and Socrates) to submit to the [redacted], and writing a book review for [redacted].

I strive, ultimately, to teach and learn with aretē, to fulfill my potential. Study at [redacted] University would help me cultivate my scholarship. [Redacted] reflects my interests through its [redacted] Institute, environmental studies program, the Cather and Whitman archives, a strong American literature program, interdisciplinary outreach, and the outstanding faculty with strengths in 19th-Century studies, theory, and Western/Plains scholarship. I intend to excel in the field of literary studies and teaching. I believe I would be a good fit for [redacted].


This candidate applied to nine programs, and was ultimately accepted to a state school with funding, an offer he accepted.

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