Apocalyptic Ecologies: Environmental Interpretation at the Dawn of the Anthropocene
Drawing on early English religious literature and art, Shannon Gayk investigates how premodern texts imagined environmental catastrophe and suggests how these texts’ representations continue to inflect the rhetoric of environmental apocalypse today. While many post-medieval texts turn to science to address environmental topics, medieval literature consistently cited biblical precedents, types, and prophesies. Apocalyptic Ecologies focuses on three scenes of environmental devastation: the biblical account of the creation and fall; historical disasters such as fires, storms, and floods; and the environmental signs of the Final Judgment. At the heart of this book are three general claims: first, the stories we tell about natural disasters matter as representation both mirrors and shapes comprehension and practice; second, the lexicon we employ to narrate climate change has a deeper history than we sometimes assume; and third, attending to the premodern environmental imagination may yield fresh perspectives on how we represent and respond to ecological catastrophe now.
Shannon Gayk is Associate Professor of English at IU Bloomington. She
is the author of Image, Text, and Religious Reform in Fifteenth Century
England (Cambridge University Press, 2010), a study of changing ideas
about the uses of the image in the century before the English Reformations. In
addition to Apocalyptic Ecologies, she is at work on a book on sacred instrumentality that considers the social, formal, and theological uses of the arma Christi in image and text from 8th-century liturgical expressions to 17th-century lyrics.