Read: contribution by Pippa Marland.
I'm a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Bristol. My research project, ‘The Pen and the Plough’, looks at the representation of farming in British nature writing from 1900 to the present day.
I’m interested in how certain ways of thinking about farming and the natural world recur in this writing through tropes like the pastoral or ‘the wild’. These tropes aren’t always helpful in assisting an understanding between farming and conservation – either because they promote an overly idealistic image of agriculture that, as James Rebanks said in a recent interview ‘sold the romance long after the reality [of farming] was badly degraded’, or because they present an image of the landscape from which humans and agrarian cultivation are largely missing. At the same time, in some contemporary nature writing there’s a tendency to blame farmers for all our environmental ills.
I’d like to ask three questions – to farmers, creative practitioners, and environmental humanities academics respectively:
How do farmers and land workers feel about the ways in which farming has been represented culturally over time, and at the present moment?
Do agrarian writers and artists think that they are influenced by existing cultural ‘tropes’ (the pastoral for example, or ideas of ‘the wild’), and if so how do they work through these in their representations of agriculture?
How can academic arts and humanities practitioners address these issues of representation and understanding in their critical work?