Bestial Oblivion: War, Humanism, and Ecology in Early Modern England, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Bestial Oblivion

War, Humanism, and Ecology in Early Modern England, 1st Edition

By Benjamin Bertram


282 pages

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Hardback: 9781138708853
pub: 2018-06-01
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315201085
pub: 2018-05-24
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Although war is a heterogeneous assemblage of the human and nonhuman, it nevertheless builds the illusion of human autonomy and singularity. Focusing on war and ecology, a neglected topic in early modern ecocriticism, Bestial Oblivion: War, Humanism, and Ecology in Early Modern England shows how warfare unsettles ideas of the human, yet ultimately contributes to, and is then perpetuated by, anthropocentrism. Bertram’s study of early modern warfare’s impact on human-animal and human-technology relationships draws upon posthumanist theory, animal studies, and the new materialisms, focusing on responses to the Anglo-Spanish War, the Italian Wars, the Wars of Religion, the colonization of Ireland, and Jacobean “peace.” The monograph examines a wide range of texts—essays, drama, military treatises, paintings, poetry, engravings, war reports, travel narratives—and authors—Erasmus, Machiavelli, Digges, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Coryate, Bacon—to show how an intricate web of perpetual war altered the perception of the physical environment as well as the ideologies and practices establishing what it meant to be human.


"Bestial Oblivion captures the messy collisions between humans, animals, and objects in early modern warfare. In venturing onto the battlefield, Bertram’s book marks a refreshing departure from the pastoral environments that have often detained ecocritics. Equipped with the latest insights of the New Materialism and Actor-Network theory, it illumines the new assemblages forged by war and travel in the era that preceded England’s rise as a global super-power."

Todd A. Borlik, University of Huddersfield, UK

"[…] this ambitious book makes a timely and significant contribution to early modern studies in its enmeshing the discourse of war with contemporary ecocritical and posthumanist theory."

Rebecca Bushnell, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Table of Contents

List of Figures



1 Erasmus and the Dung Beetle; or, Human Exceptionalism and Its Discontents

2 Machiavelli, Virtù, and the Ecology of War

3 Iron Men: Thomas Digges, A Larum for London, and the Elizabethan Cyborg

4 War and Resilience: Tamburlaine the Great and the Anglo-Spanish War

5 Bestial Oblivion in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

6 Thomas Coryate, the Lousy Humanist

7 Humanity Under Siege: Francis Bacon’s Human Empire and the Capitalocene


About the Author

Benjamin Bertram is Professor of English at the University of Southern Maine, USA. His publications include articles in the Routledge Handbook on Shakespeare and Animals (forthcoming), Modern Philology, English Literature, Exemplaria, and Boundary 2. His first book, The Time is Out of Joint: Skepticism in Shakespeare’s England, was published in 2004.

About the Series

Perspectives on the Non-Human in Literature and Culture

In recent years, many disciplines within the humanities have become increasingly concerned with non-human actors and entities. The environment, animals, machines, objects, weather, and other non-human beings and things have taken center stage to challenge assumptions about what we have traditionally called "the human." Informed by theoretical approaches like posthumanism, the new materialisms, (including Actor Network Theory, Object-Oriented Ontology, and similar approaches) ecocriticism, and critical animal studies, such scholarship has until now had no separate and identifiable collective home at an academic press. This series will provide that home, publishing work that shares a concern with the non-human in literary and cultural studies. The series invites single-authored books and essay collections that focus primarily on literary texts, but from an interdisciplinary, theoretically-informed perspective; it will include work that crosses geographical and period boundaries. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Nature
NATURE / Ecology