Vassar College Digital Library
Vergil's Georgics has been known throughout history as a didactic, "how to" guide on farming. However, as scholarship has progressed, the Georgics is now seen less as a guide on farming and more as a "self-insert" farming fantasy for the elite (similar to the Gen-Z "Cottagecore" craze). Vergil was writing for an elite audience, many of whom did in fact own land. However, most were not out working the land themselves. Instead they used slave labor and tenant farmers to perform the day-to-day tasks. It is clear from writings of the Roman elite at the time that there was a wistfulness for the countryside, yet it was paired with a clear distaste for the working class. This is exemplified in the term agrestis, a derogatory term for a countryman, similar to the word "bumpkin" or "rube" today. The antithesis of this, in line with the fantasy of the "elite farmer," is the idea of an agricola, a benevolent, knowledgeable, land-owning farmer. My thesis sets out to analyze this dichotomy through a close reading of Virgil's Georgics and to apply what we learn from this analysis to rural life in 21st century America, paying particular attention to the rise of populist politics in recent years.
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