The Environment and Literature of Moral Dilemmas : From Adam to Michael K book cover
1st Edition

The Environment and Literature of Moral Dilemmas
From Adam to Michael K

ISBN 9780367770877
Published August 19, 2021 by Routledge
210 Pages

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Book Description

Exploring the literature of environmental moral dilemmas from the Hebrew Bible to modern times, this book argues the necessity of cross-disciplinary approaches to environmental studies, as a subject affecting everyone, in every aspect of life.

Moral dilemmas are central in the literary genre of protest against the effects of industry, particularly in Romantic literature and ‘Condition of England’ novels. Writers from the time of the Industrial Revolution to the present—including William Blake, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Émile Zola, Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, T.S. Eliot, John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and J.M. Coetzee—follow the Bible in seeing environmental problems in moral terms, as a consequence of human agency. The issues raised by these and other writers—including damage to the environment and its effects on health and quality of life, particularly on the poor; economic conflicts of interest; water and air pollution, deforestation, and the environmental effects of war—are fundamentally the same today, making their works a continual source of interest and insight.

Sketching a brief literary history on the impact of human behavior on the environment, this volume will be of interest to readers researching environmental studies, literary studies, religious studies and international development, as well as a useful resource to scientists and readers of the Arts.

Table of Contents

Preface by Dr. Helen Gavin

A Note on the Hebrew Bible


1. The environment and the betrayal of the covenant

2. Nature and the biblical calendar: festivals and psalms

3.‘Promised lands’ and national poetry

4. Sacred landscapes in exile

5. Kadosh! Kadosh! Kadosh!

6. The Bible, charity and agricultural law

7. The piper at the gates of dawn: loss and Nature

8. ‘Man is the tree of the field’

9. Free will, divine Law and science

10. Energy and its abuse

11. Environmental disaster in the Bible

12. The apocalyptic beast let loose

13. Swords to ploughshares: the vision of universal peace

14. Humility: God’s reply to Job from the whirlwind - where were you?

15. Industry and the Romantics: Blake, Wordsworth and Goethe

16. The environment and ‘Condition of England’ novelists

17. Marx: the industrial environment as crime

18. Ibsen, Chekhov, and the moral environment

19. The rediscovery of Nature in Mendele, Bialik, and Tchernichowsky

20. The Waste Land: sin and suffering

21. Environmental abuse in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

22. Post-1945 literature: the quest for a lost Eden


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David Aberbach is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, McGill University, Montreal, Canada and Honorary Visiting Associate at the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford, UK. His books include, Surviving Trauma: Loss, Literature, and Psychoanalysis (1989); Charisma in Politics, Religion and the Media (1996); National Poetry, Empires and War (2016), and Nationalism, War and Jewish Education (2018).