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Title:Stories of the Land: Nature and Religion in Early British and Irish Literary Landscapes
Author(s):Siewers, Alfred K.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wright, Charles D.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Scholars have long noted differences in treatments of nature between early Celtic (Welsh and Irish) and Anglo-Saxon literatures, which include the earliest and most extensive extant vernacular literatures in Europe. But these purported differences have never been satisfactorily explained relative to cultural views of the natural landscape itself that emerged along with developing ethnic identities in the early medieval British Isles. They usually have been explained in somewhat romanticized fashion as related to degrees of continuing pre-Christian paganism or aspects of national temperaments. Partly as a result of such a lack of rigorous analysis, the purported differences themselves are now questioned by some scholars. This study, examining major narratives in the early Irish and Welsh and Anglo-Saxon literary traditions, concludes that different processes of conversion to Christianity led to what indeed were real (but not monolithic) differences in cultural perspectives of nature among early Insular cultures. It does this by making use of recent developments in historical and archaeological interpretation, as well as in areas of literary analysis and source study. At the same time, it borrows approaches from ecocritical, psychonalytic and phenomenological literary theory in order to examine the relationship between culture and natural landscape in literature. Finally, it points out important analogues between "Celtic" literary landscapes and medieval Byzantine theological views of nature, reflected especially in the work of the ninth-century Irish philosopher John Scottus Eriugena. In the end, developing views of nature in the West were influenced strongly both by interpretations of St. Augustine's writings and the rise of new Western monarchies, which together helped shape Anglo-Saxon cultural views significantly, distinguishing them from earlier Christian cultures in western Britain and Ireland, and laying the groundwork for modern Western attitudes toward nature.
Issue Date:2001
Description:379 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2001.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3023198
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2001

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