Title page for ETD etd-0417102-220244

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Rieger, Christopher B.
URN etd-0417102-220244
Title Clear-Cutting Eden: Representations of Nature in Southern Fiction, 1930-1950
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John Lowe Committee Chair
Joseph Kronick Committee Member
Peggy Prenshaw Committee Member
Richard Moreland Committee Member
Frank Anselmo Dean's Representative
  • southern literature
  • south
  • wilderness
  • environment
  • pastoral
  • nature
  • ecocriticism
  • American literature
Date of Defense 2002-04-16
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines how Southern literary representations of the natural world were influenced by, and influenced, the historical, social, and ecological changes of the 1930s and 1940s. Specifically, I examine the ways that nature is conceived of and portrayed by four authors of this era: Erskine Caldwell, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zora Neale Hurston, and William Faulkner; through their works, I investigate the intersections of race, class, and gender with the natural environment. I argue that during this time of profound regional and national upheaval there exists a climate of professed binary oppositions and that these authors’ representations of nature in their fiction reflect the tensions of such polarities as past/present, male/female, left/right, white/black, and culture/nature.

Although there is no clear linear development of the way the idea of nature is used in Southern literature, the period now termed the Southern Renaissance (roughly 1930-1950) is fueled by a new wave of Southern authors who reconfigure the use of nature in their fiction in conjunction with modernist analyses of the self and the South. The relatively belated arrival of modernism in the South offers a special opportunity for studying the shift from nineteenth- to twentieth-century culture, a change that proceeded in the South in far more concentrated fashion and with greater tension and drama than in the rest of the nation. I focus on the natural environments of the texts as dynamic, expressive spaces, and I also connect the representations of the natural world in selected novels of Caldwell, Rawlings, Hurston, and Faulkner to their responses to issues of race, class, and gender while situating their works within the contexts of Southern history and literary traditions.

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