Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Bradburn

Second Advisor

Dr. Margaret Dupuis

Third Advisor

Dr. Christopher Nagle

Fourth Advisor

Dr. L. Monique Pittman


Eden, gender construction, Shakespearean tragedy, early modern English literature, English Renaissance, gender hierarchies


This research considers images of gardens and the unavoidable connections such images have to the Garden of Eden. It investigates images of gardens in early modern England, as seen in three different categories of textual artifact: popular prose publications, dramatic texts, and the resurrected poetic epic. It investigates the construction of gender, observing how Edenic iconography functions both to support and to undermine the dominant ideology’s work to naturalize and universalize gender attributes and societal roles. This iconography, dependent upon a variety of interpretations of the first three books of Genesis, has been referenced (and continues to be referenced) by those wishing to authorize and justify the maintenance or overthrow of culturally constructed gendered social hierarchies, explicitly or subtly claiming a logic founded in essential male and female natures, capacities, and purposes. Great power comes with the privilege of voicing a culture’s foundations, as can be seen from the narrative tendencies of the enduring and influential classical works of Homer, Ovid, and Virgil. To reference and manipulate origin stories is to influence the very ontology and epistemology of a culture. To reference and manipulate Edenic imagery is to lay claim to the ability to disseminate a divine voice, evidencing the slipperiness of the evolution from an understanding of ourselves as images of a Creator, to our assumption of the role of creator, fashioning the world after our own likeness. This project does not focus on physical gardens, but on gardens grown with words, inscribed over settings, over bodies, over circumstances. What these textual garden images share involves the ways in which they echo with the authority of the divine, while simultaneously pruning pathways for the contained, exploited other, allowing them, against all odds and prevailing ideologies, a chance to speak.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Campus Only

Restricted to Campus until