Ecocriticism and the Body
“Bodies tell stories.” So begins the fifth chapter of Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward’s 2011 novel of Hurricane Katrina’s racialized landscapes. The story follows fifteen-year-old Esch Batiste, a Black teenager living in rural poverty with her family along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the days leading up to the 2005 storm. Pregnant and caught between emerging desires as an adolescent woman and compounding responsibilities as an expectant mother, Esch utters these words as she rushes into the family’s bathroom, bursting to pee, and sees her older brother Skeetah softly touching wounds on his stomach. Esch alludes to the stories revealed by her own pregnant belly and those inscribed on her brother’s torso, which tell of the ravaging of his body in exchange for resources. Ward weaves these corporeal stories into a broader narrative of racialized embodiment, structural abandonment, and environmental vulnerability as they inextricably entangle in the southern United States.
Environmental Science / Studies
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Byrnes, Delia. “Ecocriticism and the Body.” Chapter. In The Cambridge Companion to American Literature and the Body, edited by Travis M. Foster, 242–58. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022. doi:10.1017/9781108895170.020.
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