Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Randall Roorda

Abstract

Narrating Rewilding analyzes interactions between imaginative writings and environmental histories to ask how novels and creative nonfiction contribute to conversations of wilderness rewilding. I identify aspects of rewilding in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, and Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge within a context of William Cronon’s and James Feldman’s works of environmental history, and I argue that the selected imaginative works offer alternative ramifications of rewilding by questioning Cronon’s and Feldman’s anthropocentric basis.

While Cronon and Feldman argue that a rewilding wilderness expresses interconnections between human history and expressions of nature, and that a return of wild aspects benefits human understanding and interaction within wilderness areas, in these imaginative writings, wildernesses are sites that flatten hierarchies between natural elements and human aspects, places where characters languish. They are lands deeply layered with both natural and cultural histories, but aspects of the past often remain beyond reach. Rewilding in these wildernesses equates with damage and loss.

Taken together, I argue that these narratives of wilderness rewilding augment one another, creating a dialog where Cronon’s and Feldman’s discourses of environmental recovery and of human gain inform corresponding imaginative writings but are also challenged by models of lament and loss. This restructured approach to wilderness rewilding offers a widened range of potential responses to an ever-changing, ever-rewilding wilderness.

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