English, Department of


First Advisor

Joy Castro

Date of this Version



Brocious, Ariana. A Matter of the Soul: Our Human Relationship to Trees in Nebraska. MA thesis, University of Nebraska, 2017.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Joy Castro. Lincoln, NE: December 2017

Copyright © 2017 ARIANA BROCIOUS


We love trees. We connect with them more closely, relate to them more intimately, than almost any other plant. Nebraska, in the country’s heartland, may be known today for its fields of corn, soybeans, and cattle. But for the last 200 years, Nebraskans have also labored to fill their prairie state with trees. This obsession has touched all kinds of things: tax incentives, state slogans, farming practices, rural homeownership, urban water bills, state celebrations, land use and conservation.

A Matter of the Soul: Our Human Relationship to Trees in Nebraska is a work of narrative nonfiction that looks at how humans have interacted with and shaped Nebraska through trees in the last 200 years. Nebraska is home to Arbor Day, as well as an ongoing, sometimes fierce, debate about the role of trees in grassland ecology and modern land management on the plains. Grounded in history, this place-based work traces the roots of this tree obsession through to today’s modern conservation challenges on the central Great Plains. Informed by research, historical accounts, field reporting and interviews, the work also uses travel writing and memoir to move readers through stories and the landscape.

Advisor: Joy Castro