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Of Daffodils and Farmers: Literature, Agriculture Students and Ecological Awareness

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In a small Midwestern liberal arts college, a class focusing on 'Farming and Rural Life in Literature' attracted a large number of agriculture students. Although many disliked and avoided reading, these students began to use literature as a way to understand the natural world, their role in it and the experiences they shared with other farmers half a world away. They were experiencing the transformative power of poetry that Thomas Auxter urges us to consider in his essay, 'Poetry and Self-Knowledge in Rural Life'. Many critics have argued that the structure of the traditional curriculum reinforces environmentally unsustainable beliefs and practices by discouraging both understanding and creative problem solving. Yet while they advocate for innovative cross-disciplinary models, these critics pay little attention to the role of the humanities in developing the desired grasp of human interconnectedness. The students' performance and testimony is persuasive evidence that the study of literature helps agriculture students cultivate greater appreciation of nature and their membership in a global community. Teachers of English, at all grade levels, should be aware that they can play a key role in encouraging ecological literacy in the generation of farmers who must confront the world's environmental challenges and feed its burgeoning population.
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Keywords: agriculture students; ecological literacy; environmentalism; rural literature

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: English Department, Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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