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The Midwestern Pastoral: Place and Landscape in Literature of the American Heartland

UW-L Author: William D. Barillas, Ph.D.
Copyright: 2006
Publisher: Ohio University Press

Barillas, William David. The Midwestern Pastoral: Place and Landscape in Literature of the American Heartland. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2006.

Winner of the Midwestern Studies Book Award.

Designated “Outstanding Academic Title in Language and Literature, English and American” for 2006 by Choice Magazine.

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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About the Author

Originally a native of Michigan, William Barillas took degrees in English at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. He has taught at Rutgers University and at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, among other institutions. As an assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, he teaches courses on American literature, including Latino/a literature, and creative writing. His published writings include poems, works of creative nonfiction, scholarly essays, and interviews. He has given invited lectures on The Midwestern Pastoral at such venues as the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin and Roethke House in Saginaw, Michigan.

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