Date of Award
Master of Arts
Dometa J. Brothers
The study of communication between natural environment and humanity--ecosemiotics--often proves perplexing for ecosemioticians and environmental critics alike. For a field of study meant to bridge the gap between human and environmental sign systems, the question remains: how do we write about nature with a fundamentally anthropocentric sign system yet not alter conceptions or the reality of natural sign? Timo Maran offers nature writing as nature-text, but he severely restricts which readers may understand that nature-text based on their shared experience with the author's subject. Because all literature mediates sign, however, no amount of shared experiences between author and reader will provide an exact translation of natural sign to the reader when filtered through an author and text. By acknowledging that readers cannot have a direct interaction with the natural environment through a text, ecosemiotic literary analysis may instead focus on fictional portrayals of environmental sign that empower and elevate the ontology of the natural environment. This thesis aims to elaborate on the applicability of ecosemiotics in literary analysis, especially in regards to fantasy literature. To that end, this thesis asserts that a close analysis of "fantastic ecosemiosis"--the sign systems developed for fantasy creatures representing a fantasy realm's natural landscape--in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings illustrates the fantasy genre's capacity for subverting human-centric perceptions of signs by substituting nature-centric perceptions of those signs in their place. Although the fantasy landscape does not exist in reality, fantasy realms like Middle-earth allow readers to connect with nature-like creatures that possess communicative abilities and complex social norms just like our natural environment. Thus, Fantasy authors like Tolkien may reform anthropocentric sign into nature-centric sign to convey environmentalist themes and signify the natural environment as independent, culturally complex, and worthy of humanity's respect.
Lance Michael Sacknoff
Sacknoff, Lance Michael, "Fantastic ecosemiosis: An analysis of Fantasy as nature-text in The Lord of the Rings" (2014). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 13762.