Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Committee Chair

Broncano, Manuel

Committee Member

Thompson, Jerry D.

Committee Member

Niemeyer, Paul

Committee Member

Dean, John Emory


In American history, views of nature have changed over time to fit the needs of the society interacting with the wilderness. The literature of each period reflects the shift in attitudes towards wilderness as it progresses from fear of evil lurking in nature to a need to dominate and exploit it for its useful resources. Over the course of time, the need to conquer and exploit nature was rivaled by an urge to protect it. Ideas of wilderness protection were scarce early in the country’s history, but they were not unheard of; however, by the time of Transcendentalism a definite and more visible interest in protecting American wilderness began to take shape. This interest is best seen in the literature of the Transcendentalists. Ideas for wilderness protection existed from the midcentury, but it was not until the environmental reform movements of the turn of the century that Transcendentalist thought, particularly that of Henry David Thoreau, began to be widely appreciated and realized. This was no easy task, but through the work of many environmentalists the efforts culminated in the eventual creation of the National Park Service. John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, two pioneers of the environmental movement, were two of these individuals, and their partnership is worth special attention for the unlikely pairing and the influence Henry David Thoreau had on both men.