Skip to main content


The Ramifications of a Metaphor

People have long imagined themselves as rooted creatures, bound to the earth—and nations—from which they came. In Rootedness, Christy Wampole looks toward philosophy, ecology, literature, history, and politics to demonstrate how the metaphor of the root—surfacing often in an unexpected variety of places, from the family tree to folk etymology to the language of exile—developed in twentieth-century Europe.

Wampole examines both the philosophical implications of this metaphor and its political evolution. From the root as home to the root as genealogical origin to the root as the past itself, rootedness has survived in part through its ability to subsume other compelling metaphors, such as the foundation, the source, and the seed. With a focus on this concept’s history in France and Germany, Wampole traces its influence in diverse areas such as the search for the mystical origins of words, land worship, and nationalist rhetoric, including the disturbing portrayal of the Jews as an unrooted, and thus unrighteous, people. Exploring the works of Martin Heidegger, Simone Weil, Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Celan, and many more, Rootedness is a groundbreaking study of a figure of speech that has had wide-reaching—and at times dire—political and social consequences. 

288 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Culture Studies

Geography: Cultural and Historical Geography

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society


“Theoretically vigorous, critically elegant, and impressively well informed, this is a wonderful exploration of the root metaphor and the notion of rootedness in Western culture and, more particularly, in twentieth-century France and Germany. With assurance and verve, Wampole illuminates such figures as Paul Celan, Edouard Glissant, Jean Paulhan, and Simone Weil.”

Gerald Prince, University of Pennsylvania

“Wampole convincingly shows that rootedness is a pervasive literary, political, and philosophical theme that keeps resurfacing in a host of connected contemporary issues, including questions of nationhood in the globalized, multicultural context of identity politics; ideas of memory and tradition in immigrant cultures; and dialectics of localism and universalism in the postcolonial world. Students and scholars alike will benefit from this book.”

Elie During, University of Paris Ouest–Nanterre

Rootedness is original, compelling, and ambitious in scope. This is an exemplary work of scholarship in its breadth and depth, not only as an investigation into a number of major works of European literature and thought, but also as an exploration of the human relationship to the other living beings that inhabit the earth.”

Alison James, University of Chicago

Table of Contents


1 Welcome to the Rhizosphere
Some Thoughts on Metaphor
Generation Radix
Home Is Where the Root Is
Jung and Bachelard Go Deep: The Root as Subconscious Image
Radical Evil: Of Mandrakes and Wurzelmännchen

2 Radical Poetry
Ponge and the Plant’s Immobility
Into Thin Air: Celan’s “Radix, Matrix”
Guillevic’s Radical Trying
The Awkward Human: Levertov and Ecological Alienation

3 Roots and Transcendence
Verticality and the Root
Claudel’s Rooted Crucifix
Valéry and the Vegetal Brain
Inversion and Conversion
Monsieur Teste, Botanical Thinker
Tournier and the Upending of Western Culture

4 Saving Europe from Itself: Weil’s Enracinement and Heidegger’s Bodenständigkeit
Talk of Roots in the Air: La querelle du peuplier
Weil’s Fear of Abstraction
Heidegger the Terroiriste

5 Sartre, Phenomenology, and the Root
The Nausea-Inducing Root of Being
Sartre’s Autobiographical Tree
Phenomenology’s Search for Ground

6 Etymology and Essence: The Primeval Power of Word Roots
The Etymological Obsession
German Ideological Etymology
Paulhan’s Etymological Skepticism
Derrida’s Deracination of Language
Blanchot and the Etymon’s Danger

7 From Rhizome to Vegetal Democracy
The Cryptic Rhizome of Deleuze and Guattari
The Postmodern Plantation
Neo-Paganism and Plant Democracy



Modern Language Association: MLA Prize for a First Book

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press