About the Book
As beef and cattle production progressed in nineteenth-century America, the cow emerged as the nation’s representative food animal and earned a culturally prominent role in the literature of the day. In Cattle Country Kathryn Cornell Dolan examines the role cattle played in narratives throughout the century to show how the struggles within U.S. food culture mapped onto society’s broader struggles with colonization, environmentalism, U.S. identity, ethnicity, and industrialization.
Dolan examines diverse texts from Native American, African American, Mexican American, and white authors that showcase the zeitgeist of anxiety surrounding U.S. identity as cattle gradually became an industrialized food source, altering the country’s culture while exacting a high cost to humans, animals, and the land. From Henry David Thoreau’s descriptions of indigenous cuisines as a challenge to the rising monoculture, to Washington Irving’s travel narratives that foreshadow cattle replacing American bison in the West, to María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s use of cattle to connect race and imperialism in her work, authors’ preoccupations with cattle underscored their concern for resource depletion, habitat destruction, and the wasteful overproduction of a single breed of livestock.
Cattle Country offers a window into the ways authors worked to negotiate the consequences of the development of this food culture and, by excavating the history of U.S. settler colonialism through the figure of cattle, sheds new ecocritical light on nineteenth-century literature.
Kathryn Cornell Dolan is an associate professor of English and technical communication at Missouri University of Science and Technology. She is the author of Beyond the Fruited Plain: Food and Agriculture in U.S. Literature, 1850–1905 (Nebraska, 2014).
“A refreshing and unique take on not only what cattle meant to settlers but also how cattle were used as instruments for developing notions of race and American identity. In an Anthony Bourdain–like journey across the country, this book gives you a sense of regional food history in America. You can really taste the food by the end. It is important for scholarship and historical understanding of the United States.”—Karen Piper, author of The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos
“A critical contribution to its field, both in its individual arguments about literature and food and also in its modeling of a comparative methodology attuned to region, indigeneity, and global migration.”—Catherine Keyser, author of Artificial Color: Modern Food and Racial Fictions
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Cattle and Progress
1. Washington Irving, Cattle, and Indian Territory
2. Civilizing Cattle in the Writings of James and Susan Fenimore Cooper
3. Henry David Thoreau, Regional Cuisine, and Cattle
4. Cattle and Sovereignty in the Work of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins
5. The Cowboys Are Indians in The Squatter and the Don
6. Southern Cuisine without Cattle in Charles Chesnutt’s Conjure Stories
7. Industrial-Global Cattle in Upton Sinclair and Winnifred Eaton
Conclusion: Meat Is the Message