Parution : Thomas Willard, Reading the Natural World in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Turnhout, Brepols, 2020

From the late 600s to the early 1600s, medieval and early modern people engaged with nature in ways that shaped their sense of place, religion, literature, art, and more. Contributors to this volume draw from recent trends in ecological thinking to reassess their chosen topics.

The environment — together with ecology and other aspects of the way people see their world — has become a major focus of pre-modern studies. The thirteen contributions in this volume discuss topics across the millennium in Europe from the late 600s to the early 1600s. They introduce applications to older texts, art works, and ideas made possible by relatively new fields of discourse such as animal studies, ecotheology, and Material Engagement Theory. From studies of medieval land charters and epics to the canticles sung in churches, the encyclopedic natural histories compiled for the learned, the hunting parks described and illustrated for the aristocracy, chronicles from the New World, classical paintings from the Old World, and the plays of Shakespeare, the authors engage with the human responses to nature in times when it touched their lives more intimately than it does for people today, even though this contact raised concerns that are still very much alive today.

Thomas Willard is Professor Emeritus of English and Honors Professor at the University of Arizona. The author of essays on aspects of medieval and early modern history and literature, he is especially interested in the esotericism found in both religious and scientific texts at a time when the two fields were sometimes hard to separate. His publications include an English translation of the alchemical writings of Jean d’Espagne (Garland, 1999).

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