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

Introduction

Summary

During the 1920s and 1930s, in an interesting case of creative synchronicity, North America saw a proliferation of novels dealing with farm life. The increase in such novels, journalist Nelson Antrim Crawford wrote in 1925 in the context of the United States, “is a remarkable development” (quoted in Casey 2009, 87), but the same could have been said about English Canada and French Canada. In North America, the farm novel emerged around the middle of the nineteenth century, with the publication in 1846 of French Canadian author Patrice Lacombe's La terre paternelle (The paternal soil; translated as “The Ancestral Farm” [1978]) marking a decisive step. The genre went on to reach a peak in popularity during the first decades of the twentieth century in all three North American “national” literatures, and while it remained productive in English North America during the second half of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century, it has become a critical truism that the mid-1940s saw a paradigm change and, ultimately, the demise of the farm novel in French Canada.

For one hundred years, however, novels set on farms, dealing with farming, and featuring farmers as their main characters simultaneously accounted for an important part of the novelistic production in American, English Canadian, and French Canadian literatures. From the settling process and the daily and yearly tasks on an established farm to developments in agricultural techniques and the threat of the loss of a farm; from generational conflicts and sexuality to natural and economic disasters and wars, these novels address a tremendous variety of aspects of farm life.