Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Herbert Scott

Second Advisor

Dr. Gwen Raaberg

Third Advisor

Dr. John Sailiant

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Ruoff


This dissertation contains an essay with the above title, as well as two sections of poems. The first section of poems is entitled Maria Sibylla Merian, Artist and Naturalist , and is a collection of poems about, and in the voice of, Merian. Many of these are what are known as personna poems. The second section of poems is entitled The Beekeeper's Wife , and uses autobiography as a framework for communicating the humor in human relationships, and for illustrating the surrealism in the human race's relationships with the natural world.

My research for my essay entailed the study of the poetry and criticism of writers including, but not limited to, Anne Sexton, Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Maxine Kumin, Harold Bloom, Kate Daniels, and Helen Vendler. The purpose of my research was to determine whether and when a poet's political message seemed more important in her poetry than the writing of poetry as art or pure creativity.

My research for the section of poems entitled The Beekeeper's Wife entailed the study of bee culture and beekeeping, as well as forays into readings on fishing and hunting practices in Michigan. For the section of poems entitled Maria Sibylla Merian, Artist and Naturalist I studied an exhibit of original prints from her engravings at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. I also read and studied various books containing prints of her works in color and black-and-white. I read Natalie Zemon Davis' biographical essay on Merian in her book entitled Women on the Margins . I also read about various of the flora Merian illustrated, and I researched the histories of various pigments as they might have been used during Merian's lifetime.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access