Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. David Bentley


Over the course of the past two decades, Robert Bringhurst, Dennis Lee, Tim Lilburn, Don McKay, and Jan Zwicky have come to be known as a coterie of ecological writers and ethicists. All five poets have inhabited the Canadian university at various points throughout their careers, and by discussing their ecopoetics in light of their commentary on academic epistemologies and contemporary education in the humanities, this dissertation observes how the poets’ respective approaches to aesthetics, philosophy, and pedagogy are intimately intertwined. By contextualizing the group’s ecopoetics in light of their academic interventions, I argue that their public reputations as ecological artists and educators have been established as they have worked to define the borders of their own poetics within and against the territories of the broader academic and literary traditions they inhabit. In this regard, I explore two of the major epistemological traditions that the poets set in contrast to the reading practices of postmodernism – phenomenology, and the via negativa (negative way) – and argue that engaging with their works means continuously renegotiating the age-old question of poetry’s capacity to teach and delight.