Abstract Detail


Bennett, Dr. Bradley C. [1].

Science in Fiction:  The Yearling and Ethnobotany in Northern Florida.

Ethnobotanical data arises from many sources but one, the historical novel, is largely untapped.  It would appear to be an unlikely source.  Novels are works of fiction, science deals with facts.  Yet, the difference are not absolute.  Sir William Cecil Dampier (1943) recognized the importance of other disciplines in understanding nature:  “ … to see life steadily and to see it whole we need not only science, but ethics, art and philosophy.”  The genre of “science-in-fiction”– fiction that portrays science and scientist in a realistic manner, attempts to bridge the chasm between science and literature.   Here, I consider, ethnobotany in fiction as the incorporation of ethnobotanical data into fiction, sometimes including data not available in scientific publications.  Ethnobotanical references abound in literature, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter heptad.  Plants play a more central role in Vargas Llosa’s (1989) The Story Teller.  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling stands out as a source of ethnobotanical lore.   Almost every one of the novel’s 428 pages includes references to a plant or a plant product.  Her accounts, based on personal experience and interviews with locals, describe many ethnobotanical applications not previously documented.  My proximate objective is to describe late 19th century pioneer plant use in northern Florida, as portrayed in The Yearling.  I address three questions:  What useful plants and plant products are explicitly cited in The Yearling?  What plants and plant products are implied in the novel?  Are their depictions accurate?  My ultimate goal is to evaluate an innovative source of ethnobotanical data that captures information not available in ethnobotanical literature or the archaeological record.  The Yearling’s 3,911 direct and indirect references to useful plants and plant product justifies its classification as an “ethnobotanical novel.” 

1 - Florida International University, Department of Biological Sciences, 11200 SW 8th St.,, Miami, FL, 33199, USA

northern Florida
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Yearling.

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Abstract ID:33
Candidate for Awards:None