Together at the table: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Thoreau's Wild Fruits

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Abstract

In her 2007 book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver asks if "the story of bread, from tilled ground to our table, [is] less relevant to our lives than the history of the thirteen colonies" (9). One hundred and fifty years earlier in his last manuscript, Wild Fruits, Henry David Thoreau had also commented on the extra-nutritive value of food: "better for us is the wild cherry than the pineapple... not on account of their flavor merely, but the part they play in our education" (5). That Kingsolver should echo Thoreau's belief in the transcendent and educational value of food will come as no surprise to her readers. Thoreau, as Lawrence Buell points out, "stands for nature" in the American environmental imagination. Although Thoreau tends to embody American environmental values, Buell laments that he has not "engendered any canonical progeny, at least within the field of literature" (9). I propose here that the Thoreau of Wild Fruits, the later Thoreau who had moved from a lively interest in natural history to a deep, expert familiarity in his local flora and fauna borne of hours of close observation, has indeed left literary progeny. Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is, in many ways, that kin. The pages that follow explore the relationship between the two texts and examine the ways ideological discourses of science, economics, and politics meet to produce a revised aesthetic, an environmental aesthetic. The deep engagement these discourses demand move the reader from passive observer of the beautiful to active constructor of it. But first, what is the common ideological ground, and where are the disparities?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSeeds of Change: Critical Essays on Barbara Kingsolver
PublisherThe University of Tennessee Press
Pages263-276
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781572337190
StatePublished - 2010

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Cite this

Woods, G. E. (2010). Together at the table: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Thoreau's Wild Fruits. In Seeds of Change: Critical Essays on Barbara Kingsolver (pp. 263-276). The University of Tennessee Press.