Food for Thought

It’s often been said that ecocriticism, and ecocritics, have a theory problem, a phobia about the tools of literary criticism imported from Continental philosophy over the last 40 years. While there’s nothing wrong with a healthy suspicion of glib theoretical cant as a substitute for real engagement with literature, it is also the case that the philosophy of literature has been very helpful to criticism in general and contemporary ecocriticism in particular. Many of us are moving past a knee-jerk revulsion to “French theory,” only to discover that the French have contributed a great deal to environmental thinking.

One recent example of this is Food for Thought: Toward a Future for Farming by Patrick Herman and Richard Kuper on behalf of the Confederation Paysanne, the radical farmer’s union behind the Slow Food movement in France. Originally published in French as Changeons de politique agricole, this is a clear and thoughtful critique of industrial agriculture and the possibilities of moving to a model of global agriculture centered on the small farm. I found it particularly valuable in its ability to connect the farmer as citizen with an account of globalized agriculture and its discontents. Because it is sharp and cheap–I picked up my copy from Pluto Press for a dollar–this is a great book to ask students to buy outright and digest slowly.

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