Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English/Creative Writing

First Advisor

Shangyang Fang

Second Advisor

Daniel Remein

Third Advisor

Kimberly Johnson


In its bifunctionality as both noun and verb, the word “garden,” with its attendant denotations, provides the generative and perpetuative impulse of this creative writing MFA thesis. Etymologically, “garden” is thought to have descended from the Proto-Indo-European root *gher-, “to grasp, enclose.” Thus the verb “to garden,” with its definition of “to lay out and cultivate a garden,” also inherits a connotation of verbs such as “to enclose,” and “to grasp.” In my thesis I’m interested in “garden,” in its functionality as a noun, as a site (enclosed, walled, contained) of cultivated growth toward production of life for the sake of human consumption, either for pleasure (as in a “pleasure” or “aesthetic” garden), or for physical nourishment (as in a “vegetable” or “kitchen” garden). I’m also interested in the implied “gardener.” The Old English word for “gardener” was “wyrtweard”, literally “plant guard.” Historically, the garden represented both a social ideology which placed mankind as steward over Earth, as well as a belief in the human capacity to order chaos. Gardens were sites whereby the creative intentionality of human art improved on nature’s disordered development toward wilderness . I aimed to approach the creation of this thesis as a gardener approaches a plot of ground, conceptualizing each poem as a piece of Earth which (by means of poetic form) I grasped/enclosed, and then into which I planted symbols arranged deliberately for the sake of human pleasure and nourishment. Thus, the thesis explores and utilizes motifs such as: “place,” the potential of growth or decay, wilderness vs cultivation, and the relationships (for better or worse) between land and human. As an aspiring cultivator of living poems, I’m also invested in the historical-mythical role(s) of “God,” as creator, guard, and destroyer of life, as well as the mythos of Eden—a garden so central to Western/English art. Eden exemplifies two additional ways that gardens have been thought to function as symbols. In Early Modern western thought, the act of gardening “symbolized the constant need to police sexual desire,” and the garden itself was a site wherein the relationships and power dynamics “between men and women and the natural world were shaped, negotiated and formulated.” This thesis similarly functions as a site wherein I explore and examine the different shapes, forms, and negotiations of relationships, as well as the different ways that my religious upbringing demanded that I control and strive to resist my developing identity as a gay man. 1 Samson, Alexander, ed. Locus amoenus: gardens and horticulture in the Renaissance. Vol. 8. John Wiley & Sons, 2012. 2 Bushnell, Rebecca W. Green desire: imagining early modern English gardens. Cornell University Press, 2003. 3 Munroe, Jennifer. Gender and the Garden in Early Modern English Literature. Routledge, 2017.


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