Date of Completion


Embargo Period



medieval, medieval studies, Middle Ages, early modern, English literature, Chaucer, Langland, Gower, nature, labor, work, embodiment, history of science, history of labor, ecocriticism, queer ecology, ecofeminism, queer theory, transgender studies, disability studies, gender and sexuality studies

Major Advisor

Fiona Somerset

Co-Major Advisor

Robert J. Hasenfratz

Associate Advisor

Sherri Olson

Associate Advisor

Steven F. Kruger

Field of Study

Medieval Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


This project takes up the call of Laboria Cuboniks, a xenofeminist collective, who, in The Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics of Alienation, implores “If nature is unjust, change nature!”[1] In Nature-Work: (Re)Production and the Body in Medieval Discourses of Nature, I consider premodern ideologies of nature and embodiment that inflect the body as a productive and reproductive unit. By looking to medieval political theory and natural philosophy, I demonstrate that nature’s governance over human bodies – race, gender, sexuality, ability, class –, the limits of natural law, and the expression of the natural are embodied through work and labor. Nature-Work introduces a premodern literary theory of embodiment and labor by examining how medieval appeals to nature mediated and masked biological essentialism. Far from a divide between nature and culture, medieval institutions sought to restore the cultural power of nature symbolically through bodies of laborers. I argue that the political, social, and ecological environment of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-centuries precipitated a literary ‘return to nature’ that put pressure on the efficacy of nature’s hierarchies, systems, and laws as a template for human social conditions.

[1] Laboria Cuboniks The Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics of Alienation. (London: Verso Books, 2018): 93.

Available for download on Thursday, April 25, 2030