Date of Award

12-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lingyan Yang, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Abstract

This ecofeminist study champions Wilma Dykeman as an important early twentieth-century voice for feminism, environmental responsibility, and civil rights, at the same time that it questions the traditional marginalization of regional literature. I begin by placing Dykeman's work in context with that of other writers, providing biographical details as needed for contextualizing her thematic concerns. The focus then shifts to Dykeman's texts and examines her treatment of women's issues, environmental concerns, and social issues of race, class, and socioeconomic status. I assert that, although the school of ecofeminism had not fully come into its own during Dykeman's lifetime, her work&hibar;examined in a context of current ecofeminist scholarship and placed in a context of better-known writers&hibar;promotes values important to feminism, environmentalism, and social activism. While Dykeman's concerns may be focused on the southern Appalachian region, they bear wide-ranging relevance and set the stage for writers who would follow her. I concentrate in this study on her novels The Tall Woman (1962), The Far Family (1966), and Return the Innocent Earth (1973), along with her two collections of newspaper columns, Explorations (1984) and Look to This Day (1968), her first published book The French Broad (1955), and her seminal book of collected interviews, Neither Black Nor White (1957), co-authored with James R. Stokely, Jr. I come to the conclusion that Dykeman's prolific writing came from an intense sense of place as well as a concern for human values and issues, and the ideological, socio-political, hermeneutical, and aesthetic importance of her fiction and non-fiction provides a model for social and ecological responsibility. Dykeman's work has been under-appreciated and deserves wider recognition, especially in light of the fact that she tackled environmental issues well ahead of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962), faced difficult race issues before the 1960 sit-ins, and published a feminist novel a year before Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963). This study is especially timely, given the current burgeoning interest among scholars in ecocriticism and place studies.

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