The Gender Politics of Trees

Timothy Baker* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


While the recent theoretical turn to trees has focused on the question of who (or what) counts as a person, following feminist critiques of a traditional nature/culture divide, the majority of popular accounts of trees still centre on a male gaze. This chapter examines both British and American fictions, and both micro- and macro-cosmic representations of arboreal and human communities, to reveal the complexity of contemporary realist fiction concerning trees. These arboreal fictions, including Jeremy Cooper’s Ash Before Oak (2019), Melissa Harrison’s At Hawthorn Time (2015), Richard Powers’s The Overstory (2018), and Annie Proulx’s Barkskins (2016), show how taking trees seriously as agents destabilises traditional gender categorisations and ways of looking at nature. They raise questions about both how to see trees as more than symbols or anthropomorphic extensions of the self, and how to live alongside trees in a mutually beneficial way. Although the four novels tell very different stories, examining them together, with a particular focus on fragmentation and non-linear storytelling, reveals the importance of moving from observational to enmeshed accounts of human-tree relations, and how such a move unsettles the traditional associations between women and nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNonhuman Agencies in the Twenty-First-Century Anglophone Novel
EditorsYvonne Liebermann, Judith Rahn, Bettina Burger
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-79442-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-79441-5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2021


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