Vegetative Politics from Crèvecoeur to Hawthorne

Erin Forbes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

Bridging critical race theory and environmental humanities, this essay argues that plants represent peculiar forms of personhood, politics, and poetics in Crévecoeur’s and Hawthorne’s work. Crèvecoeur’s late eighteenth-century context differed markedly from Hawthorne’s: as Crèvecoeur’s settler colony transformed into Hawthorne’s imperialist nation-state, a purportedly universalist ideal of the human as separate from and sovereign over the natural world subsumed earlier climate theories that emphasized malleability. Yet a porous conception of personhood rooted in the vegetable world not only links both authors, but also frustrates their attempts to justify racial hierarchies. Precisely those moments showcasing their (by now well-rehearsed) political failings also sustain a tenacious alternative humanism worth nourishing insofar as its incorporation of environmental concerns apprehends humanism’s racialization, and therefore retains reparative potential.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-66
Number of pages24
JournalJ19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2020

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Black Humanities
  • Centre for Environmental Humanities

Keywords

  • American literature
  • Race
  • Environment
  • eco-criticsm
  • Whiteness Studies
  • posthumanism
  • Humanism
  • Sylvia Wynter
  • Hawthorne
  • Transcendental Idealism
  • Creveceur
  • Plants
  • Agency
  • liberalism

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