Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair(s)

Paul Crumbley


Brian McCuskey


Gordon Steinhoff


Emily Dickinson and May Swenson are major American poets who use scientific language in order to explore the productive tension developed when core spiritual beliefs are challenged by new scientific observations and theories. Rather than shrink from the uncertainty resulting from the challenge to faith posed by Darwin in nineteenth-century America, Dickinson and Swenson blend scientific and spiritual language to move beyond the binary opposition often seen as separating these discourses. Dickinson responds most immediately to the advent of Darwinian thought, while Swenson builds on the work of Dickinson as she examines twentieth-century scientific discoveries ranging from the microscopic (the discovery of DNA) to the macroscopic (discoveries due to space exploration). In their consideration of the implications posed by these scientific discoveries, Dickinson and Swenson provide a model of thinking that frames doubt not as a threat to belief but rather as a source of spiritual richness that is grounded in questions rather than answers.