Chapter

<i>Seeds</i> Fertility, Flowers, and Fratricide

Julia A. Stern

in Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780226773285
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226773315 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226773315.003.0003
Seeds Fertility, Flowers, and Fratricide

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The literary significance of flowers and food in Mary Chesnut's 1880s book, her versions of homey epic catalogue, local-color flourish, or domestic sentimental convention certainly are worth considering. But most significantly, the work's interest in “seeds” broadly conceived—and in fertility itself—links Chesnut's project to a central subject of epic literature from the Odyssey through The Waste Land. Chesnut's own unfruitfulness, other women's belated pregnancies, and particularly, what seemed to her the fecundity of Mulberry Plantation's slave women preoccupied her throughout her scribbling life, from the initial 1860s jottings through the reworkings undertaken in the years before her death in 1886. This chapter argues that the relation of fruit and fertility offers a key to some of the deepest structures of the messy, marvelous book she left off completing in 1883. To begin, the chapter turns to Chesnut's own experience of fruit, fertility, and its absence.

Keywords: flowers and food; fertility; epic literature; unfruitfulness; fratricide; domestic convention

Chapter.  12406 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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