Abby L. Goode

Sep 20, 2022

Agrotopias

An American Literary History of Sustainability

University of North Carolina Press 2022

In Agrotopias: An American Literary History of Sustainability (UNC Press, 2022), Abby L. Goode reveals the foundations of American environmentalism and its enduring connections to racism, eugenics, and agrarian ideals. Throughout the nineteenth century, writers as diverse as Martin Delany, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Walt Whitman worried about unsustainable conditions such as population growth and plantation slavery. In response, they imagined agrotopias—sustainable societies unaffected by the nation's agricultural and population crises—elsewhere. Though seemingly progressive, these agrotopian visions depicted selective breeding and racial "improvement" as the path to environmental stability. In this fascinating study, Goode uncovers an early sustainability rhetoric interested in shaping, just as much as sustaining, the American population. Showing how ideas about race and reproduction were central to early sustainability thinking, Goode unearths an alternative environmental archive that ranges from gothic novels to Black nationalist manifestos, from Waco, Texas, to the West Indies, from city tenements to White House kitchen gardens. Exposing the eugenic foundations of some of our most well-regarded environmental traditions, this book compels us to reexamine the benevolence of American environmental thought.

Dr. Abby Goode is Associate Professor with tenure at Plymouth State University, where she teaches in the English and Sustainability Studies programs. Twitter

Brian Hamilton is Chair of the Department of History and Social Science at Deerfield Academy. Twitter. Website.

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