"The things that attach people": a critical literary analysis of the fiction of Barbara Kingsolver

Gorton, Ceri Martha (2009) "The things that attach people": a critical literary analysis of the fiction of Barbara Kingsolver. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This is the first full-length scholarly work dedicated to the fiction of Kentucky-raised feminist activist and trained biologist Barbara Kingsolver. Interrogating the political efficacy of the work of an author who proclaims that art “should be political” and that “literature should inform as well as enlighten”, this thesis explores the ways in which Kingsolver positions herself variously as an environmentalist, liberal, communitarian, feminist and agrarian. It unpacks the author’s issues-based approach to writing fiction and its effect on her commercial popularity and through close readings of her fiction provides an assessment of this popular and critically acclaimed contemporary American writer.

This study maps the oeuvre of a writer who has achieved critical success in the form of Pulitzer nominations, American Booksellers Book of the Year awards, a National Medal for Arts, and commercial success in the form of bestselling novels and even non-fiction works – not to mention the populist accolade of being selected as an Oprah’s Book Club author. It analyses tropes, techniques and tensions in Kingsolver’s novels and short stories published between 1988 and 2001, namely The Bean Trees (1988), Homeland and Other Stories (1989), Animal Dreams (1990), Pigs in Heaven (1993), The Poisonwood Bible (1998), and Prodigal Summer (2001). Rather than act as an introductory survey, this assessment posits that there exists a difficult but fruitful tension between writing fiction for readers and writing to a political agenda. Kingsolver promotes both of these through her narrative strategies and preoccupations. In the end, I argue that Kingsolver’s pursuit of popular appeal, far from compromising her politics, is a political strategy in itself.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Monteith, S.J.
Newman, J.A.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
ID Code:758
Deposited By:Miss Ceri Martha Gorton
Deposited On:05 Nov 2009 10:57
Last Modified:05 Nov 2009 10:57

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