Robin Hamon: Paradise Revisited: Ecocriticism and the Eden Narrative

The Biblical story of the Garden of Eden is one of the most central narratives in Western civilisation (if not the central narrative). As part of the account of creation contained in Genesis, it is a cornerstone of both the Jewish and Christian religious traditions. Moreover, it has exerted a powerful influence on secular culture, ranging from the seventeenth-century epic Paradise Lost to modern-day advertisements. Yet scholarly critics have tended to overlook the significance of natural resources and the environment in the Eden narrative, choosing instead to focus on the agency of the human characters. While ecocriticism is gaining ground as a popular approach in contemporary literary studies, Biblical scholars have generally paid little attention to it and how it can be usefully applied to their field.

Today on The Provocateur I talk to Robin Hamon, a PhD student at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Bible Studies, to discuss the Eden narrative from an ecocritical perspective. We start by thinking about the origins of Biblical Studies and ecocriticism as separate disciplines, before looking in-depth at Genesis as an example of how the two fields can be fruitfully merged. We also touch on notions of paradise and wilderness and how these might have affected interpretations of the narrative, as well as the significance of trees in the text.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Primary text: Genesis 2:4b-3:24 (in the New Revised Standard version).

Secondary reading:

Glotfelty, C. and H. Fromm (eds.) (1996) The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Hamon, R. B. (2018) ‘Garden and “Wilderness”: An Ecocritical Reading of Gen. 2:4b-3:24’, The Bible and Critical Theory, 14.1.

Habel, N. C. and S. Wurst (eds.) (2000) The Earth Story in Genesis (The Earth Bible, vol. 2). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Zevit, Z. (2013) What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? London/New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Tim Grayson: God Without Religion

Religious freedom in an age of cultural diversity is an extremely pressing issue of our times. But perhaps we would be better off if we moved away from institutionalized religion while still retaining the concept of a divine or higher power? This week on The Provocateur, I talk to poet and author Tim Grayson to discuss his conception of God without religion.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Max Price: Pork, Prohibitions and Power: A Short Cultural History of the Pig in the Ancient Near East

As with many other animals in society, pigs have occupied an ambiguous status throughout human history. On the one hand, we are highly dependent on them because of their importance as both a domesticated creature and a source of food; on the other, they are reviled even to the extent that in the Abrahamic religions it is considered sacrilegious to eat pork. The pork taboo as expressed in Leviticus has been a constant source of fascination to anthropologists, as well as scholars of religion, and various explanations have been put forward for how and why this taboo came into existence in early Mesopotamian civilisations.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Max Price, a postdoctoral fellow at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel in Germany, to discuss the pork taboo in the context of the cultural history of the pig in the ancient Near East. We explore the uniqueness of the pig as a domesticated animal; the reasons for pig domestication; and the origins of and reasons for the pig taboo. Towards the end of the programme, we also touch on the continuing significance of pigs in Middle Eastern societies today. Max is also contracted with Oxford University Press to write a book dealing with these issues from 1 million years ago to the present, which will certainly be worth looking out for in the near future!

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Albarella, U., K. Dobney, A. Ervynck, and P. Rowley-Conwy (eds.) (2007) Pigs and Humans: 10,000 Years of Interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Diener, P. and E.E. Robkin (1978) ‘Ecology, Evolution, and the Search for Cultural Origins: The Question of Islamic Pig Prohibition’, Current Anthropology 19: 493-540.

Essig, M. (2015) Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig. New York: Basic Books.

Hessler, P. (2014) ‘Letters from Cairo: Tales of the Trash’, The New Yorker October 13, 2014.

Ottoni, C. et al. (2012) ‘Pig Domestication and Human-Mediated Dispersal in Western Eurasia Revealed through Ancient DNA and Geometric Morphometrics’, Molecular biology and evolution: mss261.