Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, vii, 223 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Branka Arsić

Committee Members

Eric Keenaghan, James Lilley, Ivy Schweitzer


Anne Bradstreet, Early American literature, Ecocriticism, Michael Wigglesworth, Phillis Wheatley, Samson Occom, American poetry, Nature in literature, Nature conservation in literature

Subject Categories

American Literature | American Studies | Arts and Humanities


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.