Date of Award

Spring 5-31-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Justine Van Meter

Second Advisor

Dr. Joanna Levin

Third Advisor

Dr. Brian Glaser


Both Joss Whedon's Firefly and J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings present settings that are just as much influenced by the environments in which they occur as they are by the characters who act within those environments. For J.R.R. Tolkien, it was his lived experience of having grown up in a changing England that influenced his depiction of the world, while Joss Whedon's Firefly revisits and readapts the American mythos of the Western and the cowboy and re-appropriates it to science fiction, placing the action in the far future and in space where humanity is once again exploring and settling new frontiers. In these stories, modernity and the advancement of technology and industry serve as a foil to the protagonists who live in bucolic agrarian rural zones. For Whedon, the threat manifests as the Alliance, a seemingly Orwellian government that rules from central worlds filled with vast cityscapes and seeks to impose its will upon the more agrarian outer worlds, who want to be free. With Tolkien, it is the ever industrializing Isengard and Mordor which serve as an existential threat to the peoples of Middle-earth. In both works, the rural and agrarian lifestyle is associated with freedom, peace, and goodness. In contrast, the modern and industrial is associated with tyranny, oppression, and the world's despoilment. Through examining the two texts with an ecocritical lens, one can see how cultural biases are reflected, constructed, and reconstructed through the vehicle of popular culture across the 20th and 21st centuries.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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