Critical Insights: Barbara Kingsolver
This volume brings together a set of materials to serve both as an introduction to Barbara Kingsolver's writings and as a guide to scholarly readings of her work.
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. Subsequent books, like Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, and Small Wonder, reiterated these concerns and added others, most notably environmentalism. Today, she continues to be a formidable advocate of politically, socially, and environmentally conscious writing.
1.Career, Life, and Influence
The volume begins with a general introduction to Kingsolver's life and work that provides a context for the beginning reader. Austenfeld's introduction reflects on Kingsolver's "sense of place" and her ongoing commitment to being a "writer with a purpose."
Four original essays provide valuable context for readers new to Kingsolver. 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; review the major pieces of Kingsolver criticism and the popular reception of her books; demonstrate 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 offer 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.
Finally, this volume assembles a highly diverse selection of previously published essays concerning Kingsolver. Each essay is 2,500 to 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes.
The volume's appendices offer a section of useful reference resources, including:
- A chronology of the author's life
- A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
- A general bibliography
- A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
- Notes on the individual chapter authors
- A subject index