Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Journet, Debra S.

Author's Keywords

Rhetorical studies; Rachel Carson; Nature; Environmental rhetoric; Identification; Consubstantiality


Conservation in action (Washington, D.C.); Carson, Rachel, 1907-1964; Environmental literature; Environmentalism--United States--Authorship


This project examines the Conservation in Action series, twelve texts produced by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from 1947-1957 and developed and written by Rachel Carson and other agency employees. She developed the series to publicize the refuge service and conservation work, and I specifically focus on the first two booklets in the series, Chincoteague: A National Wildlife Refuge and Parker River: A National Wildlife Refuge, which argue the need for waterfowl sanctuaries. I analyze the texts as early examples of government environmental rhetoric produced by Carson, author of Silent Spring. For the analysis I use four lenses: Killingsworth and Palmer's environmental perspectives, Herndl and Brown's environmental discourse categories, Aristotelian proofs, and Carson's subject positions as government employee, scientist, and naturalist. My analysis suggests that Carson's construction of arguments and evidence in these texts illustrates the potential for environmental discourse to 1) contain appeals for both specific and wide audiences, 2) incorporate multiple ways of talking about the environment, and 3) address the needs of many stakeholders. Adding to Carson scholarship and critiques of modem environmental discourse, I specifically argue that using a combination of ethos, logos, and pathos is rhetorically powerful and that current environmental discourse must incorporate emotional appeals not depending only on jeremiad, apocalyptic, or overly emotional language. Chapter 1 reviews current environmental rhetoric scholarship, analyses of governmental environmental texts, and critiques of environmental discourse; it also explores environmental communication models, Burke's theory of identification and consubstantiality, and current Carson scholarship. Chapter 2 explains background information about the USFWS, Carson, her involvement with the agency, and the creation and content of the CIA series. Chapter 3 analyzes how Carson constructs nature through the discourse of resource and of science and incorporates ethical and logical proofs, specifically arguing Carson's use of the language of commerce and the language of conservation science. Chapter 4 analyzes Carson's construction of nature as spirit and her use of multiple pathetic appeals in her call for conservation support. Chapter 5 briefly examines two recent examples of environmental discourse in light of the project's discussion.