Old English Ecotheology

My current book project, Old English Ecotheology: The Exeter Book argues that, far from a neutral backdrop for human activity or a canvas on which to project cultural concerns, the non-human natural world was a vibrant, evolving force in the narrative and spirit of Old English poetry. Reading the poems of a 10th century manuscript known as the Exeter Book against and alongside contemporary theology and environmental thought, I suggest that the people of early medieval England were intimately aware of the influence of the natural world in shaping human activity, and that their theology and poetry often figured humanity not as “master of nature,” but as part of a divine ecology of created beings stretching from Eden to apocalypse. For fifty years on either side of the ominous year 1000, Old English poets produced a body of work, exemplified by the Exeter Book, which in many ways speaks to the environmental anxiety of the 21st century. My analysis of representations of the natural world in the Exeter Book demonstrates the profound influence of medieval ecotheology on the poetry of the age, and suggests that these earliest examples of the English tradition might usefully inform modern conversations about environmental ethics, rhetoric, and policy.

Full project proposal and sample chapters available for review. Please email courtneycbarajas@gmail.com for more information.

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