A New Heartland: Women, Modernity, and the Agrarian Ideal in America

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9780195338959: A New Heartland: Women, Modernity, and the Agrarian Ideal in America

Modernity and urbanity have long been considered mutually sustaining forces in early twentieth-century America. But has the dominance of the urban imaginary obscured the importance of the rural? How have women, in particular, appropriated discourses and images of rurality to interrogate the problems of modernity? And how have they imbued the rural-traditionally viewed as a locus for conservatism-with a progressive political valence?

Touching on such diverse subjects as eugenics, reproductive rights, advertising, the economy of literary prizes, and the role of the camera, A New Heartland demonstrates the importance of rurality to the imaginative construction of modernism/modernity; it also asserts that women, as objects of scrutiny as well as agents of critique, had a special stake in that relation.

Casey traces the ideals informing America's conception of the rural across a wide field of representational domains, including social theory, periodical literature, cultural criticism, photography, and, most especially, women's rural fiction ("low" as well as "high"). Her argument is informed by archival research, most crucially through a careful analysis of The Farmer's Wife, the single nationally distributed farm journal for women and a little known repository of rural American attitudes. Through this broad scope, A New Heartland articulates an alternative mode of modernism by challenging orthodox ideas about gender and geography in twentieth-century America.

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About the Author:

Casey is Visiting Associate Professor, English & American Studies, Skidmore College. Her first book, Dos Passos and the Ideology of the Feminine (Cambridge University Press, 1998) won the Modern Language Association's Prize for Independent Scholars.

Review:


"Well written and engagingly illustrated...Should be read with the purpose of understanding big-picture issues in the discussion of farm women's place in a modernizing, twentieth-century America." --Great Plains Quarterly


"Drawing on a wide range of sources, A New Heartland provides a pioneering interpretation of post-World War I rural culture in which the feminine and the domestic are not static images of a conservative order, but rather vehicles through which prevailing notions of gender and women's work can be challenged."-Eric J. Sundquist, UCLA


"A New Heartland is a thoughtful and thought-provoking study that will help to transform our understanding of the relationship between modernity and rural life. Casey breaks new ground in bringing accounts of rural life into explicit dialogue with theories of modernity, in her archival research, and in drawing attention to unfamiliar or rarely discussed texts."-Rita Felski, University of Virginia


"A strong contribution to the new modernist studies." --American Literary History


"As with her interpretations of the writers' achievements, Casey's explication of "rural camera work" is startling and original...By presenting readers with arresting and varied images both literary and artistic, Casey has made her case that from the margins (and sometimes from the center, or "heartland" of cultural life), American women could--and did--creatively critique the agrarian ideal." --American Studies


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