This paper explores the relationship between humans and plant life as depicted in two creation stories: that in the Bible, and that in Margaret Atwood’s novel, Oryx and Crake. An analysis of the relationship between Genesis’ first two humans and nature is revealing in terms of Crake’s possible motivation when creating the Crakers. Specifically, it appears that Crake’s purpose may be to re-access a state of pre-fall Paradise. A comparison of the two creation stories foregrounds the question of whether human qualities - the characteristics that separate humans from other creatures - might be at odds with a harmonious state of nature.
This essay analyses the plant-strewn pages of Brecht Evens’ graphic novel art parody The Making Of (2011) from an intertextual point of view that pays special attention to the Pattern and Decoration movement and to the element of kitsch. As a way of investigating the use of plant-life in art, this analysis shows how plants and flowers, even (and perhaps especially) when abundantly present in an artwork can be effaced in their symbolic and biological capacity and instead come to function in a purely instrumental manner. In light of the overwhelming silence of plants as plants in the graphic novel, this text raises epistemological questions pertaining to the knowability of plants to humans.
This essay examines how Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing series introduced ecological awareness to the world of comics. Prior to Moore, nature was typically depicted as a one-dimensional space mainly to provide narrative texture. Under Moore’s tutelage, the environment became a lead character. By reconfiguring Swamp Thing as an all-vegetative entity, Moore forced the reader to commune directly with nature itself. This essay explores Moore’s ecological vision along with the environmental movements of the time. Looking beyond this body of work, it concludes with a brief discussion on Moore’s eco-legacy and impact on contemporary comics.
This essay attends to the language of antebellum farm journals and plantation records to argue that Southern planters encountered resistance from their lands and crops that they could not countenance. Planters’ failure to adapt to their environments stemmed from a set of assumptions about their role as masters over the natural world. In this essay, I argue that planters refused to comprehend the messages being sent by their unruly land because they feared conceding any of their supposed authority, for to do so would have been to compromise the "naturalness" of their control over their enslaved people.
Betsy Winakur Tontiplaphol
Over the course of Austen’s novel, Fanny Price, a woman simultaneously plant-like and gardener-esque, transforms Mansfield Park—the seat of a family destabilized by the violence of the slave trade and, eventually, the carnal appetites of its spoiled children—with what might best be described as the passive promotion of vegetarian values. When considered alongside such commonplace terms as “cornfield” or “hayfield,” the name “Mansfield” evokes the dystopian image of a plot where men, the most valuable of beasts, are cultivated for consumption, but Fanny adheres to both Enlightenment and Romantic vegetarian principles, quietly asserting the superiority of the vegetal over the carnal and, concomitantly, the centrality of plants to civilized living.
The protagonist of Susan Glaspell’s The Verge represents some of the tensions that Americans, and particularly female artists in America, experienced during the post-war era. For Glaspell, The Verge and its protagonist provide a literary space to test new forms of art, womanhood, and Americanism. This play may be one of Glaspell’s most complex theatrical productions, and this essay employs Conceptual Blend Theory to analyze how the ingenuity of the play lies in Glaspell’s use of metaphor to blend Claire, her plants, and the ideals she embodies into something “other,” something on the verge of new.
Aubrey Streit Krug
What might be gained from thinking through plants and humans as growing, reproducing “bodies”? How do plant bodies produce human bodies, and vice versa, on the Great Plains? This essay explores these questions by analyzing how cultural narratives of power are reproduced in public agricultural rhetoric about plants as well as in the material practices of propagating and eradicating plants. The conclusion reflects on the role critical plant studies might play in academic and popular cultures by posing a new question: What ways might a non-normative or “queer” way of thinking about plant reproduction help us solve on the Great Plains?