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The Watch-bitch now: Reassessing the natural woman in Han Kang's The Vegetarian and Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things

Beeston, Alix 2020. The Watch-bitch now: Reassessing the natural woman in Han Kang's The Vegetarian and Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 45 (3) , pp. 679-702. 10.1086/706472
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Abstract

This essay provides the first sustained scholarly analysis of two new novels by women: Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. It argues that these texts, when read together, provide a crucial site for reevaluating the legacies of radical French feminist theory and ecofeminism in the late twentieth century, while also testing some of the limits of recent work in critical animal studies. In both novels, female characters pursue impossible communions with nature: in one, a woman wants to become a tree; in the other, a woman wants to become a rabbit. Kang and Wood radicalize the cultural intimacy between women and nature in exploring the potential of the natural realm—the realm outside the city, in Hélène Cixous’s terms, stalked by the watch-bitch, the sphinx—to serve as a refuge from a violently androcentric and anthropocentric world order. Yet the two texts ultimately refuse romanticized notions of the woman in and with nature. They dramatize the risks of a negative epistemology of vulnerability, silence, and alterity that, in different ways, conditions the radical feminist reclamation of the hysteric or madwoman as a figure of protest and the various theorizations of subversive affiliations between humans and animals in ecofeminism, feminist nature writing, and critical animal studies. This essay argues that Kang and Wood’s novels reveal in contemporary feminist thought a retrospection of the debates around female madness and silence associated with second-wave feminism, especially as they reaffirm the primacy of women’s relationships with other women over their being with nature.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISSN: 0097-9740
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 October 2018
Date of Acceptance: 23 July 2018
Last Modified: 16 May 2020 08:41
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/115936

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