Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

American Studies

First Advisor

Eckstein, Barbara

First Committee Member

Rigal, Laura

Second Committee Member

Glass, Loren

Third Committee Member

Birrell, Susan

Fourth Committee Member

Stromquist, Shelton


This dissertation provides an ecocritical history of Robinson Forest, a southern Appalachian forest owned by the University of Kentucky. The objective of this dissertation is to examine the literary, environmental, and cultural history of Robinson Forest from its geologic formation to the present, paying particular attention to the production of Robinson Forest as a discrete space with evolving, contested articulations of meaning and value. It begins by tracing the natural history and Native American use of the old-growth forest before chronicling the massive environmental disruption of clear-cutting the forest during the 1910s by the Mowbray & Robinson Lumber Company of Cincinnati. Then, it explores the university's ownership of the forest through its research agenda and natural resource speculation, while also tracing student and environmental protest about the university's use of the forest. Specifically, this dissertation examines the work of foresters and academic researchers, lawyers and creative writers, university administrators and environmental activists whose labor has led to an array of literary productions - deeds, newspapers, academic publications, legal decisions, poems, non-fiction essays - that convey competing understandings and articulations of the forest's value: ecological, aesthetic, monetary. By probing these conflicting values, it complicates the progressive narratives of science, higher education, public policy, and environmentalism throughout the 20th and into the 21st Century. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that throughout the 20th Century, the university has repeatedly closed off the forest from "the people" of eastern Kentucky that the donor directed the land to serve. In the 21st Century, then, the university, with assistance from "the people," will need to rearticulate its use of the forest, encouraging the long-term economic, environmental, social, and cultural sustainability of Robinson Forest.


Ecocriticism, Environmental History, Forestry History, History of Education


x, 331 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 317-331).


Copyright 2013 David Barrett Gough