Dr. Marc Baer
The contrast between urban and rural is one ever-present in societies with these conceptual spaces, along with interpretations of this contrast, as societies rationalize these different spaces in terms of their material conditions. This trend reaches as far back as The Epic of Gilgamesh and Aristotle's Politics which rationalize it in terms of Ancient Mesopotamia and Greece. Two interpretations with an interesting, spontaneous and unconscious similarity are those of Rome and America. Both, as articulated by writers and politicians, viewed the rural lifestyle of a farmer as the most virtuous and moral role in society compared to the urban citizen, who lived amongst corruption, decadence, and general immorality. This lens of morality, of viewing the contrast as primarily one of virtue/vice, is an interpretation shared by these societies, unlike others. This project will examine each society’s interpretation of the urban-rural dichotomy in historical context, focusing on the similarities, nuanced differences, and smaller, competing interpretations in each society. Much has been written about the concept of 'City and Country,' but not as a Rome-America comparison, or with this synthesis of evidence. Close parallels exist in works like Williams’ The Country and the City and Hofstadter’s Age of Reform, but this study will go beyond the scope of either. This project will examine an unstudied, spontaneous similarity between two different societies with very different contexts. Understanding this similarity, what led to such interpretations of the urban-rural, and how each arose separately but are both so similar will aid in understanding why and how societies construct these interpretations of conceptual spaces. Using political tracts, poetry, essays, speeches, a novel and a film, I will demonstrate that Rome and America held similar views on the dichotomy, why this occurred, and how this can lead to a better understanding of each.
Repository citation: Bussan, Ian, "Morality, Urbanity and Rurality in the Roman and American Consciousness " (2014). 13th Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Performance (2014). Paper 94.
April 11, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Hope College, Holland, Michigan.