Bereft of Interiority: Motifs of Vegetal Transformation, Escape and Fecundity in Luce Irigaray’s Plant Philosophy and Han Kang’s The Vegetarian


Recent consideration of plants as philosophic subjects has challenged the Aristotelian claim that plants constitute the simplest form of life and that they are soulless creatures, ‘bereft of interiority.’ Instead, philosophers such as Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder have proposed a post-metaphysical conception of the human subject, recognized as continuous with, and contiguous to, the vegetal life. In this article, I focus on Irigaray’s ethics of reciprocity and desire through analysis of her ‘plant-idioms’ of fecundity, touch, roots and breath. Next, I situate Irigaray’s philosophic categories alongside a recent work of feminist eco-fiction, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. Against the interpretations of the novel as narrative of self-attrition and psychosis, I read The Vegetarian through the lens of three vegetal figures found in Irigaray’s work: (i) a female transformation into a tree; (ii) an escape into the vegetal world as a way of traversing patriarchal roles and expectations; and (iii) fecundity as a figure of desire beyond procreation.

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