Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA English




John Wargacki, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mary M. Balkun, Ph.D.


Sarah Orne Jewett, American literary regionalism, ecocriticism


The tides have changed. Mountains have shifted. But, Sarah Orne Jewett’s zealous love for country remains unaffected. She is the sweet fragrance of peonies and roses infusing the American literary canon. Sacralizing the Secular: Preserving Space in Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron” explores Jewett’s invention of a form suitable to the nature of her experience of country life allowed her to depict the instinctive and organic symbiotic relationship between man, woman, child, and nature in her short story, “A White Heron”: a benchmark of eco-criticism. This Earth-centered approach is informed by Cheryll Glotfelty, who set out to create the field of literature and environment, in The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, and The Ecological Thought by Timothy Morton, philosopher and eco-critic. This paper pursues an eco-critical approach, which demands that we examine ourselves and the world around us, and evaluate the way we represent, intermingle with, and perceive the natural world. Jewett posits Sylvia in “A White Heron” to preserve sacred space regardless of a religious prescription through moments of stillness, meditation, and contemplation; Sylvia, the curious, observant and shy little maid, embodies “the ecological thought,” and like a disciple of Saint Francis of Assisi, has great regard for space and nature that is inherent to her character. Sylvia is more connected than ever with the natural world; the “Wood” has filled her spirit with aw, wonder and purpose. And by means of this short story, Jewett “determined to teach the world” that we must sacralize the secular, preserve space, and be like Sylvia if we are to live in communion with the natural world.