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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2013

7 - The Cycle of Seasons: Louis Bromfield's The Farm, Ringuet's Trente arpents, and Grace Campbell's The Higher Hill

Summary

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, what David B. Danbom has termed the “familio-centrism” of (American) farm life (1979, 10) became the organizing principle of many North American farm fictions. Chronicling the destinies of farm families or farm dynasties over several generations (most frequently two or three, but occasionally up to seven), these “family portraits” display characteristics of the epic genre not only with respect to their narrative scope and structure (a huge number of characters, an episodic structure rather than a fixed plot), but also with respect to their use of an “epic distance” (Bakhtin [1975] 2000, 17). By dramatizing, as they frequently do, the possible and sometimes threateningly imminent end of farm dynasties (see, for instance, The Farm [Bromfield (1933) 1961; or Trente arpents [Ringuet (1938) 1991]), they transfer the agrarian way of life and the world of the family farm to an epic or “absolute past of national beginnings and peak times” (Bakhtin [1975] 2000, 15). While thus canonizing and valorizing the farm world, these works simultaneously remove it from what Bakhtin considers to be the domain of the novel (the present) and, hence, constitute a different genre: the farm epic.