Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Tim Sweet

Committee Member

Stephanie Foote

Committee Member

John Lamb

Committee Member

William Conlogue


This dissertation argues that environmentalism and the environmental humanities are limited by an overinvestment in the discursive mode of pastoral, which provides the ecological logic of industrial urbanization by viewing the environment from the perspective of a leisured and alienated spectator. The pastoral mode enables environmental injustice by separating the realms of ecology and economy through a conventional elision of issues of labor and economics, rendering environmentalism unable to effect change within the spheres most important to ameliorating the pollution crisis. The pastoral mode thus frustrates the overarching goal of ecocriticism and environmentalism: we seek an ontological reunion of nature and culture within an urbanized economic system that perpetuates their separation. To theorize economics from an ecological perspective, I suggest ecocriticism elevate the pastoral’s undertheorized counterpart, the georgic mode, which conceives environment as a cultural space, from the perspective of an ethically engaged laborer. After making this theoretical argument in the introduction, chapters investigate the role of pastoral and georgic in the American economy and environmental imagination from the Revolution to today. Overall, this dissertation traces a gradual forgetting of the georgic mode within environmental discourse and labor concurrent with the expansion of urbanization, indicates the way this recession has enabled the global environmental crisis, and suggests how a popular recollection of georgic discourse could lead to a more sustainable and ethical mode of human life on earth.