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K-State Today

June 29, 2017



Padilla Carroll presents paper at national Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference

By Valerie Padilla Carroll

Valerie Padilla Carroll, assistant professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies, presented her paper, "The Gendered Construction of Urban/Rural in Ralph Borsodi's Flight from the City: An Experiment in Creative Living on the Land" at the 2017 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference in Detroit, Michigan.

Padilla Carroll's paper explored how the economic decentralist and self-sufficiency proponent, Ralph Borsodi depicts the urban and rural a sites of gender anxiety and patriarchal haven in his 1933 back-to-the-land classic, "Flight from the City."

Published at the height of unemployment and hunger of the Great Depression, "Flight from the City" offers readers both the underlying philosophy of economic decentralism, or decentralizing economic production to small self-sufficient households and workshops, and a kind of blueprint to set up a rural back-to-the-land smallholding.

Underlying Borsodi's prescription is the construction of the urban as disease, anxiety, and ultimately, emasculation. From this foundation, Borsodi offers the rural, particularly the back-to-the-land homestead, as a kind of refugium, a site both physical and philosophical, where those he named in an earlier work as "quality minded men" could survive, and even thrive, through a perceived breakdown of civilization. By tapping into the anxieties of white, white collar, urban men during the Depression, "Flight" offered ways to assuage economic and social anxieties and to redevelop an ideal and fictional masculine self.