Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

Naomi Liebler


This thesis discusses Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and their oppositional environmental perspectives. Specifically, the analysis focuses on Emerson’s Nature, “Self-Reliance,” “The Transcendentalism” “Circles”, and “Hamatreya,” and Thoreau’s Walden and The Maine Woods. In these texts, Emerson conveys a predominantly anthropocentric viewpoint throughout his writings, while Thoreau’s view is ecocentric. In addition, both of their works contain contradictions regarding the environment. At times, Emerson speaks of nature as subservient to mankind but then shifts his tone to that of reverential awe for nature. Thoreau is conflicted by humanity’s impact on the environment, promoting vegetarianism but then renouncing farming. He also promotes young boys learning to hunt, but then despairs over the killing of a moose on one of his trips to the Maine woods. Despite these shifts in their environmental ethics, both writers were inspirational for later environmentalists. Additionally, this thesis shows how their anthropocentric and ecocentric perspectives have value for environmentalism.

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