Date of Award

August 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Richard Grusin

Committee Members

Jason Puskar, Andrew Kincaid, Marcus Filippello


American Literature, Ecocriticism, Narratology


In this dissertation, I analyze contemporary American novels via ecocritical and narratological reading strategies to highlight how novelists approach environmental crises through various narrative strategies. The novels I analyze allow me to provide several instances where contemporary American novelists explore environmental crisis with narrative. I argue that the formal, structural choices contemporary American novelists make depend on the environmental problems they portray. Furthermore, I argue that each novel uses, to one degree or another, realist aesthetics—but makes a marked departure from realism to address environmental concerns. These novels show us how we got to where we are environmentally, but they also suggest through innovative narrative strategies how we might become more aware of our own conventions. I use narratology as a method of inquiry because the conventions of thinking are embedded in the conventions of storytelling and attending closely to the conventions of storytelling can thus open up new ways of thinking about our roles in environmental crisis. I draw on several traditions of scholars trying to rethink cultural products’ relationship to the environment and those who explore the conventions of narrative.