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Critical Insights: Barbara Kingsolver

Over the past two decades, Barbara Kingsolver has built a sizable reputation as one of the most politically engaged writers in America. When The Bean Trees was published in 1988, Kingsolver established herself as a new literary voice willing to take on contemporary political and social issues like race, feminism, class, and immigration. Today, she continues to be a formidable advocate of politically, socially, and environmentally conscious writing. This collection of essays, edited and introduced by Thomas Austenfeld, Professor of American Literature and Dean of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, offers readers an introduction to Kingsolver's life, works, and critics. These essays draw on Kingsolver's biography to discuss the evolution of her political convictions and locate her as an inheritor of the political fiction of the 1930s, and review the major pieces of Kingsolver criticism and the popular reception of her books. Critical analyses include how her first novel, The Bean Trees, reworks the gothic tropes of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre to affirm positive portrayals of racial and ethnic others, and an ecofeminist reading of Prodigal Summer that reveals, how throughout the novel, the female protagonists reconsider their relationships with human communities and the land of the Appalachian South. Further critical insights are explored in depth for Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, and The Poisonwood Bible.

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