Faculty Lecture Series 2016-17

What draws us to writers who record first-hand experience of rural life—especially those who have grown up in rural areas and who did not, at first, have much formal education? This lecture compares the poetic career of the nineteenth-century peasant laborer John Clare to two more recent cases: James Rebanks, who blogs, tweets, and writes literary nonfiction about his life as a shepherd in northern England, and J.D. Vance, whose recent memoir about his childhood in an Appalachian steel town made the bestseller lists last year. As these authors enter the literary marketplace and meet the public demand to hear authentic accounts of the rural working class, do they lose the very credibility that readers crave?

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