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XenocitizensIlliberal Ontologies in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Jason Berger

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823287758

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823287758.001.0001

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Thoreau’s Militant Vegetables

Thoreau’s Militant Vegetables

(p.101) Chapter 3 Thoreau’s Militant Vegetables

Jason Berger

Fordham University Press

This chapter takes as its starting point contemporary new materialist approaches to Henry David Thoreau’s writing, especially the work of scholars such as Branka Arsić and Jane Bennett. Complicating the Deleuzian- and neo-Spinozan-influenced forms of democratic vitalism attributed to Thoreau, this chapter traces a competing mode of materialism in Thoreau’s thought, one that is inherently dialectical and, by all standards, illiberal. Building loosely on the speculative ecological work of scholars such as Monique Allewaert and Michael Marder, it argues that Thoreau’s vision of nature in his early works is allied with his subsequent radical political pronouncements in the mid- and late-1850s. The chapter traces the structural aspects of Thoreau’s unique dialectical approach toward materiality and historical reality, examining the types of political ontologies and actants that emerge within these dynamic material relations as well as their specific stakes for antebellum society.

Keywords:   dialectics, ecology, nineteenth-century American literature, Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalism

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