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Anne Dalke's picture

argumentation...or not?

It's certainly the case that you can find lots of passages in Prodigal Summer that sound as though they could have come straight out of The Omnivore's Dilemma: from "I don't love animals as individuals...I love them as a whole species...they should have the right to persist in their own ways" (177) to "specializing makes life more risky. If their food dies, they die" (348-9). So one way to read the novel would be as a re-interpretation of the story of what is "normal," what is "right" in farming; it describes what might happen if we make different choices than we have in the past.

But this assumes that a novel makes an argument...does/can it? Or is a fictional text a different "kettle of fish" from the sort of non-fictional prose project Pollan's taken on? (I use this passage to kick off another of my courses, in Critical Feminist Studies: “…literature is...the place where impasses can be kept and opened for examination, questions can be guarded and not forced into a premature validation of the available paradigms. Literature…is…the work of giving-to-read those impossible contradictions that cannot yet be spoken." Barbara Johnson: The Feminist Difference: Literature, Psychoanalysis, Race and Gender, 1998).


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