Sneak peak: chapter 5

Sneak peak: chapter 5

Happy Thursday! Today is a very exciting day because I just got a notification that my author copies of Old English Ecotheology: the Exeter Book have been shipped! If you’re interested in buying your own copy, you can save 20% when you order directly from Amsterdam University Press and use code Pub_OEE.

The final chapter of my book–Mutual Custodianship in the Landscapes of Guðlac A–is the only one that focuses on a single (very long) poem, the eponymous verse saints’ life named in the title. This chapter was born in large part out of my frustration with the lack of environmental action by modern American Christian leadership. As I watched churches respond to environmental crises across the nation I grew increasingly wary of the rhetoric of “stewardship.” Weather events like Hurricane Harvey remind us that we are not in control of the other-than-human; how, then, can we presume to steward “resources” like the land on which our churches are built?

As always, Old English poetry provided the answer. Guðlac A offers a compelling alternative to the concept of stewardship, and remains one of my favorite poems in the Exeter Book. Check out the abstract below!


Guðlac A details the eponymous saint’s relationships with the holy landscape surrounding his hermitage and its other-than-human inhabitants. The poem suggests that the work of Guðlac’s sainthood is sustained devotion to the Earth community. As an exemplum of Old English ecotheological living, Guðlac’s legend offers a challenge to the concept of environmental “stewardship” of the Earth community in favor of a model of mutual custodianship which calls for sustained and deliberate devotion to the created world for its own sake and as a manifestation of the Creator’s love and glory. It also suggests that sustained engagement with the natural world even in the face of environmental crisis or collapse will be rewarded, in this life or the next.

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