Agrotopias: An American Literary History of Sustainability


ACLS Project Development Grants




"Agrotopias" examines the American literary roots of sustainability and the enduring partnership between environmentalist, eugenic, and racist discourses in the United States. It shows how, throughout the long nineteenth century, writers combined these discourses as they fantasized about reproductively controlled “agrotopias” beyond US borders—new “New Worlds” unaffected by population crises. Analyzing these "agrotopias," in texts ranging from Herman Melville’s ghost-written farming report to Walt Whitman’s poems of crop renewal, this project reveals an early, eugenic notion of sustainability: the ability to “feed and breed” a racially homogeneous American small farming population, even in extra-national spaces. The grant will support writing during summer 2020.