Botany as the Path to Awareness, or the Flower as a Grail In Thomas Wharton's Icefields

  • Françoise Besson Université de Toulouse-LeMirail, CAS




In the novel Icefields by Canadian novelist Thomas Wharton, plants are more than incidental elements. Vegetation appears as a living form of writing in nature that enables men and women to understand life and their relationship to the world. It can also be seen as the Grail that the alpinist sets out to find and that reveals the need to leave plants in place and not destroy the environment for motives of profit. This paper aims to show that the imagination may convey an ecological message and that ecological consciousness may lead to metaphysical awareness.


En la novela Icefields, del autor canadiense Thomas Wharton, el mundo vegetal es algo más  que un elemento accesorio. La vegetación parece ser una forma viva de escritura de la naturaleza que permite a los hombres y a las mujeres entender la vida y su relación con el mundo. Puede también considerarse como un Grial que el alpinista busca y que le revelará la necesidad de dejar que la planta crezca en su medio ambiente sin destruir el mismo con miras mercantiles. Este artículo trata de mostrar que la imaginación puede ser un medio para comunicar un mensaje ecológico y que  una conciencia ecológica puede llevarnos a una conciencia metafísica.



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Author Biography

Françoise Besson, Université de Toulouse-LeMirail, CAS

Françoise Besson is Professor of English literature at the University of Toulouse (UTM, CAS). Her research focuses on the relationship between landscape (particularly mountains) and writing in English, Native American and Canadian literature and on the sense of place. Her books include Le Paysage pyrénéen dans la littérature de voyage et l'iconographie britanniques au dix-neuvième siècle (L'Harmattan 2000) and Pyrénées romanesques Pyrénées poétiques dans le regard britannique: XIXème siècle (PyréGraph 2000). She also published a book on Charles Chaplin, Le lieu nomade dans le cinéma de Charles Chaplin (PyréGraph 2003). She edited a book on the representation of mountains: Mountains Figured and Disfigured in the English-Speaking World (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2010). She is also the author of several collections of poems, tales and short stories and the co-author, with Madeleine Besson, her mother, of three books on regional history and popular traditions.

General Section 2.2 Autumn 2012