Nathan TeBokkel

Nathan Tebokkel
Poet-Farmers and Problems of Agriculture and Aesthetics

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I am fortunate to be able to pursue a graduate degree, and I decided to do so because it gives me the opportunity, time, and space to focus intently on several issues that are important to me as a student of genetics and literature and as a farmer—issues that I think are also important for society at large. A graduate degree allows me to learn from world-class researchers and inspirational teachers in a host of different fields, and it helps prepare me for social engagement after graduate school.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I decided to study at UBC because of its commitment to social change, community-based programs, and interdisciplinary research. In English, UBC offers a strong environmental humanities program, which includes the Oecologies reading group, scholars working on agricultural and improvement literature, and the Science and Technology Studies program. Outside of English, UBC gives me the opportunity to work with one of the largest experimental farms in the country, the Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability, and a host of prominent researchers in outstanding Land and Food Systems, Philosophy of Aesthetics, and Applied Biology programs.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The best surprise about UBC has without question been the generosity of (very busy) faculty members, inside English certainly, but also those outside my home department who have agreed to meet with me and have allowed me to attend their classes and presentations.


Learn more about Nathan's research

My hypothesis is that aesthetic values play a larger role in our everyday decision-making than we recognize, and that this role has a significant effect on ourselves and our world. In particular, my research focuses on contemporary agricultural issues (food waste, climate change, extinction) and trends (anti-GMOs, organic foods, local foods, veganism, sustainability) in terms of aesthetics. I trace a transatlantic genealogy of working-class poets and poet-farmers from the Romantics (Burns, Clare, Elliott) through often anonymous ex-slaves and sharecroppers to contemporary Americans (Levis, Ammons, Berry). These poet-farmers are in a unique position to observe and experiment at the interstices of agriculture and aesthetics, so I will use both their formal and farming traditions and investigations to examine the aesthetic motivations behind biotechnological research, agricultural practices, and government food legislation.