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This essay examines the relationship between Christian theology, environmental aesthetics, and environmental justice in colonial America. As opposed to the work of secular writers from the early republic like J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur and Thomas Jefferson, the Christian environmental aesthetics of Jonathan Edwards and John Woolman have potential to address questions of environmental justice in American literary history, such as tenant exploitation, African enslavement, and Indigenous displacement. Edwards, however, worked in a pastoral literary tradition, which limited his ability to imagine environmental justice due to his commitment to the doctrine of election. Woolman, on the other hand, worked in a tradition of agrarian jeremiad that was able to connect a Christian theology of creation with a concern for those marginalized by agrarian capitalism. This article reconfigures the standard account of pastoral and agrarian writing in American literature, foregrounding how Christian environmental aesthetics can both fail and succeed in imagining environmental justice.


Originally published in Early American Literature. 2023. Volume 58. Issue 1. Pages 71-96.