Description: John Graves's creative non-fiction has earned him respect in Texas letters as a seminal writer but scarce critical commentary of his work outside the region. Ecological criticism examines how language, culture and the land interact, providing a context in which to discuss Graves in relation to the southwestern literary tradition of J. Frank Dobie, Walter P. Webb, and Roy Bedichek, to southern pastoral in the Virgilian mode, and to American nature writing. Graves's rhetorical strategies, including his appropriation of form, his non-polemical voice, his experimentation with narrative persona, and his utilization of traditional tropes of metaphor, metonymy, and irony, establish him as a conservative and Romantic writer of place concerned with the friction between traditional agrarian values and the demands of late-twentieth-century urban/technological existence. Sequentially, Graves's three main booksGoodbye to a River (1960), Hard Scrabble (1974), and From a Limestone Ledge (1980)represent a movement from the pastoral mode of the outward journey and return to the more domestic world of georgic, from the mode of leisure and contemplation to the demands and rewards of hard work and ownership. As such they represent not only progression or maturation in the arc of the narrator's life but a desire to reconcile ideological poles first examined so long ago in Virgil: leisure and work, freedom and responsibility, rural and urban values.
Date: August 2001
Creator: Anderson, David Roy