Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paul R Schneider

Committee Member 1

Derek A Pacheco

Committee Member 2

Robert P Lamb

Committee Member 3

Susan Curtis


Discussions of masculinity, the natural environment, or domestic culture are relatively common in antebellum literary scholarship, but this dissertation explores the less commonly discussed connections among these three areas of study. Likewise, ecofeminist scholars have done groundbreaking work describing the relationship between gender and the environment, but, with some exceptions, descriptions of male identity and the environment most often reference an ecologically-destructive patriarchal mode. In the American antebellum period, the figure of the frontiersman best represents this patriarchal view, and his effortless mobility, self-possession, and mastery over the landscape form a dominant understanding of manhood and nature in the decades before the Civil War. This study argues for the domestic man as a positive alternative to the patriarchal frontiersman. The fictional texts that are the subjects of this dissertation’s analysis emphasize the relevance of the home in their descriptions of men’s relationship with nature. A man inside the household, however, occupied an anxious position within an antebellum domestic culture that associated the home with femininity. For some of the texts in this study, engagement with local outdoor environments allow men to contribute to the home without risking a loss of manhood, while other texts highlight the domestic failure of the frontiersman’s individualistic approach to the landscape. Despite their different approaches, for all of the authors of these texts, a domestic approach to the environment, one that attends to its role within the home and community, forms an essential aspect of ideal masculinity.