English Language and Literature ETDs


Lisa Myers

Publication Date



The Wilderness in Medieval English Literature: Genre, Audience and Society' focuses on the disjunction between the actual environmental conditions of medieval England and the depiction of the wilderness in the literature of the time period from the Anglo-Saxon conversion to the close of the Middle Ages. Using environmental history to identify the moments of slippage between fact and fiction, this project examines the ideology behind the representations of the wilderness in literature and the relationship of these representations to social practices and cultural norms as well as genre and targeted audience. The first chapter argues that the depiction of early Anglo-Saxon saints and their relationships to the wilderness of England helped to construct a Christian countryside for the newly converted Anglo-Saxons. The next chapter asserts that the epic Beowulf employs wilderness settings in order to address Anglo-Saxon anxiety regarding the pagan past of their ancestors on the Continent. The third chapter examines an eclectic group of English histories written after the Norman Invasion, showing that their use of the landscape of England subverts the Norman master-narrative of political and social superiority. The final chapter of this study examines the earliest Middle English Robin Hood poems, arguing that they represent the voice of the English peasant and manifest a desire to regain control of the natural places of England that had been appropriated by the upper classes of the feudal structure. Overall, this project asserts that the literary images of the natural world in the medieval literature of England are a complicated synthesis of real environmental conditions and the ideology espoused by each particular genre and are, therefore, intimately tied to time and place.'

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Damico, Helen

Second Committee Member

Graham, Timothy

Third Committee Member

Harrison, Gary




Medieval Literature, Ecocriticism, Wilderness

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