Date of Graduation

Fall 2018


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

Martha Finch


John Muir, Gramsci, settler common sense, intellectual, religion, nature, rhetoric, discourse, myth, ritual, indigenous, America, colonialism, environmentalism


Representations of John Muir, America’s most famous environmentalist, and religion have been highly variegated. A mythological figure of American environmental politics, Muir and his legacy have been an ideological apparatus for presidents, environmentalists, and naturalists performing acts of identification for themselves and their country. Furthermore, religion and environmental scholars have often used Muir as a case study for what they call “nature religion.” Lost in this myth-making labor are the politics of sacred spaces and national discourse. Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci developed the concept of common sense and the intellectual, which this thesis uses to analyze John Muir’s poetics of American wilderness and role in relationship to the nineteenth-century genteel class. By contextualizing Muir’s religion-making and myth-making practices using the critical insights of Gramsci and Gramscian analytic frames, this thesis studies the relationship of Muir’s socio-historical context with the common sense that shaped his nation-making discourse. This is accomplished by the framing of religion using antiessentialist and critical-contextual lenses. Next, this thesis situates Muir in relation to race, class, and ethnic positionality. Last, Muir oriented himself to the colonial relations of the American wilderness. Situating John Muir in contextual and complex relations of power challenges simplistic notions of religion and functions to reconsider the role of the historical production of Muir, or the Muir-myths. By situating John Muir as an intellectual of the American genteel class with settler common sense thought, this thesis demonstrates that John Muir’s religious wilderness narratives constructed American colonial mythology.


© Daniel R. Jones

Open Access