Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Before Nature's Nation: Ecological thought and Early American Poetry
by Bartlett, Joshua C., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2018, 230; 10812881
Abstract (Summary)

This project examines early American encounters with the natural world through the context of contemporary ecocriticism. In readings of Puritan poets Anne Bradstreet and Michael Wigglesworth, African-American poet Phillis Wheatley, and Mohegan minister Samson Occom, it demonstrates how poetic attentions to nature transformed collective antagonism toward the “howling wilderness” into personal feelings of affection and wonder. Likewise, it develops an understanding of the “ecological” that is both methodology, a way of thinking about specific things, such as trees or stones, and epistemology, a kind of thinking that emphasizes relational perception. It then situates these experiences amidst both canonical Americanist scholarship and recent work in new materialism, object oriented ontology, and the environmental humanities in order to demonstrate how the affective capabilities of the natural world shaped individual subjectivities in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England.

By emphasizing entanglement with nature as a dominant characteristic of early American life, Before Nature’s Nation challenges conventional understandings of how early Americans interpreted the world around them. In reading these treatments of natural objects, places, and spaces for ecological possibilities, it reframes traditional narratives of American environmental history and relocates the origins of American environmental thought. Through its particular focus on early American poetry and poetics, the voices of colonial women, persons of color, and Indigenous peoples are foregrounded in ways that core texts of the early American canon often overlook. And, in highlighting seventeenth- and eighteenth-century struggles with unfamiliar landscapes, natural disasters, resource scarcity, and the effects of climate change, this work enables early American literature to resonate with contemporary moments of environmental crisis in crossings unexplored by either ecocritical studies or literary criticism.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Arsić, Branka
Commitee: Keenaghan, Eric, Lilley, James, Schweitzer, Ivy
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: English
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Literature, American literature
Keywords: Bradstreet, Anne, Early American literature, Ecocriticism, Occom, Samson, Wheatley, Phillis, Wigglesworth, Michael
Publication Number: 10812881
ISBN: 978-0-438-00460-3
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