Although current environmental debates lay the focus on the Industrial Revolution as a sociopolitical development that has led to the current environmental crisis, many ecocritical projects have avoided historicizing their concepts or have been characterized by approaches that were either pre-historic or post-historic: while the environmental movement has harbored the dream of restoring nature to a state untouched by human hands, there is also the pessimistic vision of a post-apocalyptic world, exhausted by humanity's consumption of natural resources. Against this background, the decline of nature has become a narrative template quite common among the public environmental discourse and environmental scientists alike.
Ecocriticism, Ecology, and the Cultures of Antiquity revisits Antiquity as an epoch which witnessed similar environmental problems and came up with its own interpretations and solutions in dealing with them. This decidedly historical perspective is not only supposed to fill in a blank in ecocritical discourse, but also to question, problematize, and inform our contemporary debates with a completely different take on "nature" and humanity's place in the world. Thereby, a productive dialogue between contemporary ecocritical theories and the classical tradition is established that highlights similarities as well as differences. Ecocriticism, Ecology, and the Cultures of Antiquity is the first book to bring ecocriticism and the classical tradition into a comprehensive dialogue. It assembles recognized experts in the field and advanced scholars as well as young and aspiring ecocritics. In order to ensure a dialogic exchange between the contributions, Ecocriticism, Ecology, and the Cultures of Antiquity includes four response essays by established ecocritics which embed the sections within a larger theoretical and practical ecocritical framework and discuss the potential of including the pre-modern world into our environmental debates.
"Too many writers assume that ecocriticism and environmental engagement began with the poems of Wordsworth or the writings of Thoreau. This collection of essays well demonstrates that for as long as humans have been creating texts they have been meditating critically upon their place within a natural world that far exceeds them in scale and duration. Of as much interest to those working in the environmental humanities as classists, Ecocriticism, Ecology, and the Cultures of Antiquity demonstrates that the Greek and Latin texts of antiquity have much of importance to say to a critical conversation today."
– Jeffrey J. Cohen, George Washington University
"This is the first volume that systematically addresses the contribution of cultures of antiquity to ecological thought. Written by international experts in the field, the essays cover a broad spectrum of areas ranging from environmental histories to close textual readings, from literary poetics to natural philosophy, from ecophobic to ecoerotic discourses, from green genres to the reception of classical sources in modern ecological contexts. This substantive volume impressively demonstrates the continued significance of cultures of antiquity as a deep-time dimension of contemporary ecological thought, testifying to the sustainability of texts across the boundaries of cultures and historical periods."
– Hubert Zapf, University of Augsburg
Foreword: Before Nature?, Brooke Holmes
Introduction, Christopher Schliephake
Part I: Environmental (Hi)stories: Negotiating Human-Nature Interactions
1) Environmental Mosaics Natural and Imposed, J. Donald Hughes
2) Poseidon's Wrath and the End of Helike: Notions about the Anthropogenic Character of Disasters in Antiquity, Justine Walter
3) Glades of Dread: The Ecology and Aesthetics of loca horrida, Aneta Kliszcz and Joanna Komorowska
4) Response: Hailed by the Genius of Ruins - Antiquity, the Anthropocene, and the Environmental Humanities, Hannes Bergthaller
Part II: Close Readings: Literary Ecologies and the More-than-Human World
5) Eroticized Environments: Ancient Greek Natural Philosophy and the Roots of Erotic Ecocritical Contemplation, Thomas Sharkie and Marguerite Johnson
6) Interspecies Ethics and Collaborative Survival in Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, Richard Hutchins
7) The Ecological Highway: Environmental Ekphrasis in Statius, Silvae 4.3, Christopher Chinn
8) Impervious Nature as a Path to Virtue: Cato in the Ninth Book of Bellum Civile, Vittoria Prencipe
9) Response: Re-Thinking Borderlines Ecologies - A Literary Ethics of Exposure, Katharina Donn
Part III: 'Green' Genres: The Pastoral and Georgic Tradition
10) The Environmental Humanities and the Pastoral Tradition, Terry Gifford
11) "How / to make fields fertile": Ecocritical Lessons from the History of Virgil's Georgics in Translation, Laura Sayre
12) Nec provident futuro tempori, sed quasi plane in diem vivant - Sustainable Business in Columella's De Re Rustica?, Lars Kessler and Konrad Ott
13) Response: Back to the Future - Rethinking Time in Precarious Times, Roman Bartosch
Part IV: Classical Reception: Presence, Absence, and the Afterlives of Ancient Culture
14) The Myth of Rhiannon: An Ecofeminist Perspective, Anna Banks
15) Emblems and Antiquity: An Exploration of Speculative Emblematics, Lucy Mercer and Laurence Grove
16) The Sustainability of Texts: Transcultural Ecology and Classical Reception, Christopher Schliephake
17) Daoist Spiritual Ecology in the "Anthropocene", Jingcheng Xu
18) Response: From Ecocritical Reception of the Ancients to the Future of the Environmental Humanities (with a detour via Romanticism), Kate Rigby
Afterword: Revealing Roots - Ecocriticism and the Cultures of Antiquity, Serenella Iovino
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Christopher Schliephake is a cultural historian, ecocritic, and postdoc scholar at the University of Augsburg.