The Negotiation of Vegetarianism as a Remedy for an American Sociocultural Schizophrenia in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals

Abstract: Reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals with a particular emphasis on the narrative dimension and rhetoric of the text, this article analyzes how Foer’s book employs the issue of vegetarianism to reveal and remedy a perceived condition of ‘American sociocultural schizophrenia’ in the context of modern-day factory farming. In particular, it pays attention to the psychological mechanisms involved in the process of meat consumption. The paper makes visible how Eating Animals employs the narrator’s story of achieving a sense of mental wholeness and unity through vegetarianism as a template for the larger state of disconnectedness and alienation with respect to American society and culture. Additionally, it is demonstrated how Foer’s text taps into the rhetoric of the American jeremiad in its discussion of vegetarianism in the face of modern-day factory farming to offer this diet as a potential and practical remedy for a perceived state of ‘American sociocultural schizophrenia.’ In doing so, the article aims to point to the implications of the entailed invocation of American values and identity in the global context of shifting and changing relations of power and identity.

Whoever strolls around the city of London these days is likely to stumble over highly disquieting sights: Whether it is a pig or a cow staring at passersby from behind bars or the toes of chicken sticking out from ventilation grills—in more than thirty places around the city these and similar images or objects provoke more than just puzzled looks. Having been installed by the street artist Dan Witz in cooperation with the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), these pieces represent the recently launched art project “Empty the Cages.” The aim of this project, according to its website, is not only “to bring these animals out from the shadows – and remind us of what happens every day on farms and in slaughterhouses” but also to “[remind] us that their fate is in our hands and that we have the power to save them by choosing not to consume their flesh” (“Empty the Cages”). This double aim underscores ethically motivated vegetarianism: Though often being reduced to an argument for animal rights or welfare, the decision of not eating meat for moral reasons is by no means detached from the issues of human physical and mental health. On the contrary, this choice is just as central to the question of human mental well-being as to the pressing and urgent quandary of how one is to align one’s daily performance of identity with the established ideals and responsibilities concerning this performed self.

Read all of this Article in aspeers's Free Full Text Mode