The silences of Annie Dillard

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Sims, Robynn
Engber, Kimberly

This research began as an investigation into Annie Dillard's An American Childhood with the intention of discovering if her memoir could be considered nature writing. Though I had intended to limit myself to her memoir, my research in nature writing and in ecocriticism continued to expand the breadth of Dillard's work that I included. The underlying theme that became a focal point for my research was that of the spiritual language in Dillard's writing, which I examined through Max Picard's definition of silence. After merging varied ways of seeing nature writing and spiritual writing in Dillard's work, it became apparent, even before reading the Afterword" in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek that Dillard's writing was pointing toward silence and darkness. The via negativa, a Christian aesthetic path toward unknowing, is what I traced through three of her books: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Holy the Firm, and An American Childhood. Not only does Dillard join a tradition of nature writing along with Henry David Thoreau and the Romantics, but her contributions remain shrouded because her words leave space for possibility: enchantment, bewilderment, or both, paradoxically.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English