Announcing the publication of Ancient Christian Ecopoetics: Cosmologies, Saints, Things

Book Cover: Ancient Christian Ecopoetics Cosmologies, Saints, Things

Book Cover: Ancient Christian Ecopoetics Cosmologies, Saints, Things

October 26, 2018

Virginia Burrus, The Bishop W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion, has published Ancient Christian Ecopoetics: Cosmologies, Saints, Things in the series “Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion” at the University of Pennsylvania Press. In the midst of anthropogenic climate change, Dr. Burrus suggests exploring the past to recover generative lines of ecological thought from early Christian sources. Continuing her interest in the transgressive and excessive elements of ancient Christian imagination and practice, Dr. Burrus traces these elements’ transformative potential for today. Douglas Christie, author of The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology (Oxford, 2013) describes Ancient Christian Ecopoetics as “a brilliant and original book. In its reach, in its synthetic analysis, in its fluid, dynamic thought, Virginia Burrus creates something conceptually and imaginatively audacious. No one has attempted such a project before, not like this and not with such sophistication and reach.”

The University of Pennsylvania Press offers the following precis of the book:

"In Ancient Christian Ecopoetics, Virginia Burrus facilitates a provocative encounter between early Christian theology and contemporary ecological thought. In the first section, Burrus explores how the mysterious figure of khora, drawn from  Plato’s Timaeus, haunts accounts of a creation envisioned as varyingly monstrous, unstable, and unknowable. In the second section, she explores how hagiographical literature queers notions of nature and places the very category of the human into question, in part by foregrounding the saint’s animality, in part by writing the saint into the landscape. The third section considers material objects, as small as portable relics and icons, as large as church and monastery complexes. Ancient Christians considered all of these animate beings, simultaneously powerful and vulnerable, protective and in need of protection, lovable and loving. Viewed through the shifting lenses of an ancient ecopoetics, Burrus demonstrates how humans both loomed large and shrank to invisibility, absorbed in the rapture of a strange and animate ecology."

Ancient Christian Ecopoetics is Burrus’s sixth monograph and the third to be published with the “Divinations” series, which she coedits with Daniel Boyarin and Derek Krueger. Her prior two “Divinations” books were Saving Shame: Martyrs, Saints, and Other Abject Subjects (2008) and The Sex Lives of Saints: An Erotics of Ancient Hagiography (2004), which has been translated into French (2011), Italian (2011), and Czech (2015). She is also co-author, with Mark Jordan and Karmen MacKendrick, of Seducing Augustine: Bodies, Desires, Confessions (Fordham, 2010), with Marco Conti, of The Life of Saint Helia: Critical Edition, Translation, Introduction, and Commentary (Oxford, 2014), and with Marco Conti and Dennis Trout, of The Lives of Saint Constantina: Critical Editions, Translations, Introduction, and Commentary (completed manuscript currently under press review). She has edited or co-edited two multi-author volumes as well and is the author of more than sixty-five essays and articles. Currently she is Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Religion and is teaching an undergraduate course on “Christianity & Sexuality” and a graduate seminar on “Textual Bodies in the Study of Religion: Martyrs & Saints.”