Date of Award

Spring 2000

Document Type



Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Jeff Morris

Second Advisor

Lorna Milne

Third Advisor

Annette Moran


My thesis, as the title suggests, explores the literary aesthetic of Rachel Carson (1907-1964)— acclaimed author of Under the Sea-Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1951), The Edge of the Sea (1955), and Sz/ezz/ Spring (1962). Carson is best known for Silent Spring due to the controversy which surrounded its subject—the dangers of widespread, indiscriminate use of pesticides, especially DDT. However, prior to the publication of Silent Spring, Carson was already known for her best-selling books about the ocean, especially The Sea Around Us, which appealed to a wide audience comprised of naturalists and specialists in the sciences as well as people without a science or biology background. Carson’s attraction is due to her ability as a writer who, as Paul Brooks writes, “could take the facts of science and transmute them into literature” (Speaking 4). Why did Carson feel the need to “transmute” science into literature? Precisely how did she do it? What impact does her writing have on the ongoing development of writing about nature, science, and the environment? And who was Rachel Carson, the woman behind the legend? The answers to these questions would lead to an understanding of Carson’s literary aesthetic which I have defined as “A tapestry of poetry, pathos, reason, and fact.... her compositional art, her ecological sensibility .... an intertextual literary ecology ... a delicate, but dynamic, equanimity between the senses, the soul, and the intellect in Carson’s approach to nature as recorder of what she observes, feels, knows, and experiences.”