Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Louise Economides

Committee Co-chair

Robert Baker

Commitee Members

Deborah Slicer


wonder, more-than-human, vulnerability, mortality, dark ecology, seeing


University of Montana


Through a close reading of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, this thesis presents an argument for the ecological value of a sense of wonder in our engagements with the more-than-human world. The first chapter explores Dillard’s desire to see truly, like the Romantics, and follows her journey of attention into the natural world, analyzing her epiphanic, enchanting, and enlivening experiences of deeply intimate engagement with things both minute and massive. The second chapter considers how Dillard’s practice of close attention opens her perception in a way that allows her to see the full reality of the more-than-human world, including not just the beautiful and awe-inspiring encounters described in Chapter One, but also its dark, disturbing, unsettling parts. In her desire to see the world truly and with fidelity, Dillard wrestles with difficult questions about our place as human animals, the nature of the world we share with other beings, and how to respond to the overflowing beauty and horror of experience. This project is largely concerned with understanding how Dillard responds to feelings of dislocation in her experience of the more-than-human world, particularly as questions of human exceptionalism, the amorality of nature, and the vulnerability of embodiment threaten her sense of belonging within and relationship to what is not human. I argue that Dillard’s sense of wonder, and her willingness to accept vulnerability as an embodied being, offer hope for a profoundly ecological way of being in the world. As we attempt to understand and navigate the Anthropocene, the sense of wonder Dillard shares offers a potentially invaluable framework for reorienting ourselves to and reimagining our relationship with the more-than-human world.



© Copyright 2019 Mary Morgan Beavers