Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Robert Baker

Commitee Members

Louise Economides, Phil Condon


animal, comedy, Dickinson, ecocriticism, ecofeminism, Emily, feminism, humor, nature, Romanticisism, sublime


University of Montana


Beauchesne, Jill, M.A., Autumn 2006 Literature Abstract: How Still the Riddle Lies Robert Baker, Chair Louise Economides Phil Condon The tradition of “nature writing” in the United States draws heavily on the literary movements of Romanticism and Transcendentalism. Wordsworth’s meditative walks, Keats’s nightingale, Thoreau’s pond—these concepts have shaped literary beliefs and perceptions of natural landscapes as much as a writer’s individual haunts or favorite creatures. In a contemporary context, a writer steps down a long, wellworn path when he or she attempts to describe a bird taking flight or the way the sunlight feels at a certain time of afternoon. In the nineteenth century, writers began looking to nature as a source of redemption—through interaction and contemplation of natural landscapes or animals, writers often constructed fantastic, extraordinary metaphors and expressions of individual consciousness or feeling. These types of natural contemplations still serve as potential artistic reservoirs for contemporary writers and artists; however, this reservoir emerges as increasingly fraught under the lens of feminist criticism. The Romantic construction of “sublimation,” a process by which a “subject” can gain invaluable creative or spiritual knowledge through an interaction with an “other” (often, a natural place or thing) requires an implicit separation of subject from object. Feminists have latched on to the dualist makeup of Romanticism and have urged a critical reevaluation of how we must read these writers from a present standpoint. Moreover, within this reevaluation,feminist criticism focuses on how female writers in this period and others handled this objectification of the other. In my thesis, I have utilized feminist and ecofeminist criticism to examine how nineteenth century poet Emily Dickinson confronted the Romantic sublime, specifically in relation to the natural world. Namely, I believe that Dickinson’s relationship to the natural world is less objectifying than more publicly dominant literary names of her time and that she remained less interested in obtaining subjective sublimity than in expressing a conceptually particular, somewhat strange, always fascinating relationship with her physical surroundings. Furthermore,humor served as a primary tool for Dickinson to conduct subversive reactions against the dominant Romantic paradigm concerning the natural world and also allowed her more access to reactionary discursive tools.



© Copyright 2006 Jill M. Beauchesne