American Gothic

        "Do not the seas and the mountains and the prairies and the plains in some manner and to some extent transform men into their own likeness?"
—Cyrenus Cole

The America First cause of 1959-41 finds a powerful, if unusual and indirect, affirmation in E. Bradford Burns' Kinship with the Land: Regionalist Thought in Iowa, 1894-1942. Better known for his histories of Latin America, Burns returns to his native Iowa to analyze its "most productive period of intellectual inquiry, cultural vitality, self-perception, and self-expression." He describes a wide-ranging "revolt against cultural nationalism" led by an unlikely band of Iowa poets, novelists, and artists. They shaped "a vigorous, if not blatant, Midwestern patriotism," and defended it against the cultural and political wiles of New York and The Continent, before succumbing to the "internationalization of the state during World War II."

Notably, the author stresses the stability of Iowa's material conditions during this period of artistic achievement. The state counted 222,000 family farms in 1894, and approximately the same number in 1940, with the average size holding at 155 acres. Panning technology remained relatively static over this period as well, with true horsepower still competitive with steam and the early two cylinder...

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