Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A long walk communicates: The function of ritual experience in Colorado nature writing
by Jones, Tanner McCord, M.A., Prescott College, 2010, 126; 1476030
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis engages the proposition that Western society is estranged from its natural environment and lacks a positive and productive relationship with nature. It argues that this relationship can be improved by approaching the natural world more intentionally, specifically, by developing what is called here a sense of place, a term understood to mean a deeply rooted, ongoing relationship with the environment based on the particular kinds of knowledge that can only be gained through experience and commitment to the locations in which we reside or with which we associate. Key to this process is the development of individualized ritual behavior that simultaneously honors and understands place, behavior that can be found modeled in the narrative of certain nonfiction texts within the genre of environmental literature. Because sense of place is so integrally bound up with narrative, literature provides readers with an understanding of how nature writers have approached the challenge of creating a sense of place. Although ritual experience is not explicitly addressed by all the writers we consider part of the American nature writing tradition, ritual can be read in the terms through which many well-known writers understand their relationship to the natural environment. This study details how environmental literature can be used in this manner, specifically noticing how the ritual experiences of several representative contemporary Colorado nature writers record ritual in their experiences; in particular how Ann Zwinger's Beyond the Aspen Grove, David Gessner's Under the Devil's Thumb, and Aron Ralston's Between a Rock and a Hard Place model ritual affiliation with place and can be used by readers in the development of their own individualized rituals of place. This process completes itself as readers in turn write their own narrative accounts of their ritualized connection to place. Using Colorado as a model, readers can apply the rituals explored in these works to create place-based texts and place-based rituals for other locations as well.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ellis, Reuben
Commitee: Aldern, Jared, Slovic, Scott
School: Prescott College
Department: Humanities
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 48/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Modern literature, American literature
Keywords: Environment, Nature writing, Place, Ritual
Publication Number: 1476030
ISBN: 9781109766547
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