Dissertation Title:

Dionysus and the Wild Unknown: Nature, Body, and Gender


Kaydean McInnis

Date, Time & Place:

April 4, 2023 at 11:30 am
in the Lecture Hall at the Lambert Campus


This hermeneutic study considers the role of Dionysian consciousness in the engagement of trauma and grief, the embrace of instinctual life, and the evolving perception of “the other” as these matters are drawn into our relationship with nature. Dionysian consciousness is explored by means of the archetypal psychology of James Hillman and applied to the ecological disruption of our era. The study examines the Western paradigm of living in a state of psychological separation from nature, which has led to the outer exploitation of the nonhuman world as well as to an inner psychic wasteland. These problems and their connection are addressed by engaging the possibility that a Dionysian consciousness forms a critical overlap or interplay with the ecological and embodied states of being essential for this time of environmental need and technological progress.

The study proposes that the Dionysian archetype draws in themes of gender, feminine consciousness, shapeshifting, tragedy, madness, animal instinct, dismemberment, death, rebirth, ritual, eros, and zoe (bodily vitality). The Dionysian archetype is found to be a catalyst in evolving our relationship with nature, especially in the communal context. The climate crisis is thus reimagined in terms of a change of consciousness arising from this archetype, personified by the Ancient Greek figure of Dionysus. The god of intoxication and polarities, Dionysus evokes a sense of the nonhuman world, embodied ways of knowing, and the wild feminine. Dionysus counters resistance to ecological thinking by undoing titanic cultural impulses, including the dominance of American exceptionalism.

The theoretical approach used in this study draws upon Jungian depth and archetypal psychology, mythological studies, ecopsychology, transdisciplinarity, and indigenous traditions. What grows from Dionysian consciousness is an ecological love based on reciprocity that challenges the Western paradigm of dominating nature. Dionysian consciousness is relational, offering access to both archetypal emotions and resistant shadow work through the vitality of instinctual life. The study ends linking its newfound understandings to Andreas Weber’s idea of an erotic ecology in a sensual world, leading to a renewed consciousness of belonging.


  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies with emphasis in Depth Psychology, I, 2013
  • Chair: Dr. Glen Slater
  • Reader: Dr. Susan Rowland
  • External Reader: Dr. Seemee Ali
  • Keywords: Dionysus, Dionysian Consciousness, Ecology, Indigenous Traditions, Wild Feminine, Nature, Climate Crisis, Dismemberment, Titans, Zoe, Maenad