Horsescapes: Space, Nation, and Human-Horse Relations in Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven
This chapter addresses the role of the animal in Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven (2000), an extensive novel with multiple story lines and a large gallery of human and nonhuman characters. Set in the world of contemporary US thoroughbred horse racing and rooted in its author’s long personal involvement in horse culture, Horse Heaven attempts to represent no less than the entirety of American horse culture with its trainers and jockeys, small owners and businessmen, gamblers and animal communicators. In so doing Smiley’s novel tells stories of humans and their relationships with individual horses such as the aged and abused race horse Mr. T. and the intelligent racer Justa Bob. Moving between various important locations of American horse racing from Kentucky to California, Horse Heaven presents a series of what I call horsescapes, spaces where horses and humans are involved in the definition of human-animal relations. Smiley’s novel thereby promotes a new, relational understanding of the role of the horse in American culture. Rather than mere objects to be trained and ridden, the horses of Horse Heaven are, this chapter suggests, involved in an equine remapping of America; they participate in a critique of the individualist and anthropocentric ideologies of the United States, and play a role in negotiating American identities because of their national and transnational location.
KeywordsCultural Capital Nonhuman Animal Race Track Prize Money Horse Owner
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