Since the advent of the environmental crisis, some writers have raised concerns with the moral influence of Christian scripture and interpretive traditions, such as the medieval book of nature, a hermeneutic in which nature and scripture are "read" in reference to one another. Scripture, they argue, has tended to stifle sacred relationships with nature as a non-human other. This thesis argues that such perspectives are reductive of the sacred quality of scripture. Environmental perspectives should be concerned with the desacralization of religious texts in addition to nature. Chapter one suggests that two questions surrounding the medieval book of nature's history can help us address ways that such perspectives reduce religious interpretation of sacred texts. The first question is the tension between manifestation and proclamation, or the question of how scripture and nature reveal sacred meanings. The second is the problem of evil, or the question of where evil and suffering come from. It also proposes that Shakespeare's As You Like It and religious philosophy, particularly Paul Ricoeur's writings, can help us address these problems and provide a contemporary religious perspective of the "book of nature." Drawing on scenes in the play in which nature is "read" as a book and Ricoeur's essay on "Manifestation and Proclamation," chapter two argues how manifestation often works interdependently with proclamation. Chapter three discusses how anthropocentric worldviews in which natural entities are exploited also distort interpretive relationships with scripture. Overcoming desacralization requires giving up desires to suppress contingencies, particularly suffering, in nature and in interpreting religious texts. Only as the characters in As You Like It accept contingencies are they able to engage hidden sources of hope, which is comparable to the need to let go of mastery in interpretation Ricoeur describes. Chapter four discusses problems with attempts to uncover the origins of the environmental crisis by discussing what Ricoeur writes about the problems with theodicy and Jean-Luc Marion's phenomenology of evil. Assumptions that specific human origins for evil can be blamed confirm deceptively human-centered worldviews and can mask valuable messages about how to morally respond to suffering that are taught in Judeo-Christian narratives.
College and Department
Humanities; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Wendt, Candice Dee, "Interpreting the Sacred in As You Like It: Reading the "Book of Nature" from a Christian, Ecocritical Perspective" (2009). All Theses and Dissertations. 2325.
As You Like It, book of nature, Paul Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred, ecocriticism, environmentalism, Albert Borgmann, Power Failure: Christianity in the Culture of Technology, Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, The Anaximander Fragment, Jean-Luc Marion, Evil in Person, logic of evil, pastoral, contingency, ruach, medieval exegesis, ecotheology, Manifestation and Proclamation, the problem of evil, Lynn White, The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, The Spell of the Sensuous, Nature and Silence