Title page for ETD etd-11022009-153538

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Shanks, Justin Donald
Author's Email Address jshanks@vt.edu
URN etd-11022009-153538
Title Among the Giants: Resituating the Environmental Philosophy of John Steinbeck
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stahl, John D. Committee Chair
Colaianne, Anthony J. Committee Member
George, Diana L. Committee Member
  • ecocriticism
  • John Muir
  • John Steinbeck
  • more-than-human world
  • Aldo Leopold
Date of Defense 2009-10-23
Availability unrestricted
Deeply influenced by emotional, ethical, and ecological principles, John Steinbeck

developed a holistic ideology to describe and analyze the relationships among

individuals, society, and the more-than-human world. Although he explored

environmental issues with ecological insight and philosophical contemplation that placed

him well beyond his literary and scientific contemporaries, Steinbeck’s contributions to

modern ecological inquiry and environmental thought have received only intermittent

attention from literary scholars. Throughout his writing, Steinbeck develops a view of

intellectual holism that encourages (perhaps even enables) us to dovetail science and

ethics as we attempt to construct a new environmental paradigm. Viewing the world

through his holistic lens, Steinbeck was able to see the global ecosystem, local

environments, human communities, and even minute tide pools as objects of scientific

and artistic inquiry. Specifically, it is my contention that the American environmental

movement owes a greater debt to John Steinbeck than it realizes. In short, John Steinbeck

made significant contributions to the growing awareness of human-nature

interconnectedness and the parallels between social ills and ecological ailments. Yet, for

whatever reasons Steinbeck is not granted a position of honor alongside the other giants

of American environmental thought. Now witnessing the full blossoming of 21st century

environmentalism, it is useful to cast a reflexive eye upon our ideological forebears with

the intent to better understand the genealogy of the American environmental movement.

Doing so will not only provide a richer and fuller family tree, but will also promote

additional flourishing of new approaches to solving ongoing environmental troubles.

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