Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Randy Malamud - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Audrey Goodman

Third Advisor

Dr. Malinda Snow

Abstract

Ecocritical theology relates to American fiction as it connects nature and spirituality. In my development of the term “neo-pastoral” I begin with Virgil’s Eclogues to serve as examples for spiritual and nature related themes. Virgil’s characters in “The Dispossessed” represent people’s alienation from the land. Meliboeus must leave his homeland because the Roman government has reassigned it to their war veterans. As he leaves Meliboeus wonders why fate has rendered this judgment on him and yet has granted his friend Tityrus a reprieve. Typically, pastoral literature represents people’s longing to leave the city and return to the spiritual respite of the country. When Meliboeus begins his journey he does not travel toward a specific geographical location. Because the gods have forced him from his land and severed his spiritual connection to nature he travels into the unknown. This is the starting point from which I develop neo-pastoral threads in contemporary literature and discuss the alienation that people experience when they are no longer connected to a spirit of the land or genius loci. Neo-pastoralism relates Bakhtin’s idea of chronotope and the expansion of the narrative voice of the novel to include the time/space dialogic. Neo-pastoral fiction shows people in their quest to find spirituality in spite of damage from chemical catastrophic events and suggests they may turn to technology as an ideological base to replace religion. The (anti) heroes of this genre often feel no connection with Judeo-Christian canon yet they do not consider other models of spirituality. Through catastrophes related to the atomic bomb, nuclear waste accidents, and the realization of how chemical pollutants affect the atmosphere, neo-pastoral literature explores the idea of apocalypticism in the event of mass annihilation and the need for canonical reformation. The novels explored in this dissertation are John Updike’s Rabbit, Run; Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49; Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer; Don DeLillo’s White Noise; Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead; Toni Morrison’s Paradise; and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

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