In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782), Hector St. John De Crèvecoueur asserted that “Men are like plants; the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow.” Crèvecoueur imagined the land that would soon become the United States as nourishing soil for transplanted people arrived from other nations. Immigration was thus connected in his mind to metaphors of agriculture and the natural world. Immigrant narratives would remain attached to landscape metaphors throughout the long-nineteenth-century. This panel will explore some of those metaphors in the fiction written about immigrants to the United States from the early Republic to the early twentieth century. How do these narratives explain the relationship of immigrants to the new landscape they find themselves inhabiting? How do these metaphors shape national discourse on who belongs in the United States and who does not? These are just two of the potential questions that possible paper submissions might address. Research addressing questions of why immigrants fail to thrive in American soil or that explores undesirable groups through the lens of plant metaphors (such as weeds vs. productive crops) are particularly welcome.
This panel explores the relationship between immigration and fictional narratives about landscape in the United States from the early Republic to the early twentieth century. Papers of between 15-20 minutes are sought that analyze natural metaphors used to explain why some groups of migrants to the United States thrive while others don’t.