The natural environment has been a central concern of English literature from the earliest times. It is often overlooked that the English literary tradition, renowned for Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, originates in the Anglo-Saxon period, which dates from c. 650 to 1066. At the very root of this tradition is the mid-to-late seventh century work Cædmon’s Hymn, preoccupied with creation and considered the first poem in Old English. Similarly, the eighth- and ninth-century Old English poems such as Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan reflect a unique, early English understanding of creation as a place for understanding the creator.
In this talk, Jasmine Jones conducted an analysis of several Old English poems to reveal how, since the earliest times, creation was understood as providing insight to God. This reverence for the environment remains relevant today, as our contemporary concern for the majesty of the natural world is a continuation of that which is first expressed in the oldest surviving literature of the English language. Michael Scott, director of the Future of the Humanities Project, provided opening and closing remarks, and Kathryn Temple, a Future of the Humanities Project senior fellow, moderated a Q&A session following the presentation.
This event was sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project; the Georgetown Humanities Initiative; the Georgetown Master's Program in the Engaged and Public Humanities; Campion Hall, Oxford; and the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, Oxford). It is part of the one-year-long series A Bent but Beautiful World: Literature, Art, and the Environment.