Wetland Imagery in American Novels

23 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2020 Publication Status: Under Review


A B S T R A C TWetlands display general ecological characteristics that are reflected in human culture. Nature and culture, in turn, are reflected in fiction. For insight into the fraught human-wetland relationship, I consulted 200 English-language novels containing wetland imagery, and analyzed in detail 15 American novels. Using grounded theory, I coded 17 broadly-defined themes associated with wetland images in each novel. This resulted in a total of 1117 themes in 4192 printed pages. The commonest themes (≥ 55 instances each) were Transition, Place, Refuge, Beauty, Peace, Product, Mosquito, Discord, Danger, Decay, and Sex. Richness and diversity of themes were high in most novels analyzed. There were few relationships between general characteristics of the novels (e.g. author age or gender, number of pages, positive or negative ending) and the occurrence of particular themes. On the whole-book level, there were many correlations among themes. Discord, Danger, Decay, and Sex were correlated with the most other themes. Theme patterns seem related to human ambivalence towards wetlands (i.e. resources vs. hazards), and the prominence of production and decomposition in wetlands.

Suggested Citation

Kiviat, Erik, Wetland Imagery in American Novels. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3736445 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3736445

Erik Kiviat (Contact Author)

Hudsonia ( email )

P.O. Box 5000
Annandale, NY
United States

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