Byzantine Ecocriticisms: Narrative, Nature and Power in the Medieval Greek Romance

Byzantine Ecocriticisms: Narrative, Nature and Power in the Medieval Greek Romance examines the literary construction and metaphorical significance of the natural world in the Byzantine romance. The project engages the newly emergent field of ecocriticism, which studies the depiction of the natural environment in literature.  What distinguishes ecocriticism from other kinds of nature studies is its concern with deconstructing ideologies of power and control, which it does by reframing the previous scholarly position which privileged humanity over nature; ecocriticism, rather, positions the two as symbiotic components of a larger environmental network and, from the literary perspective, as equally important elements of the network of signs which constitute the texts.

Narrative, therefore, is a central concern of the project, for it is through the study of how the authors choose to write about nature that their ideology best be understood: What aspects of the natural world are included or excluded?  What value judgments are placed on different kinds of built and natural environments?  How do humans interact with nature and with the non-human animals they find there?  A study of Byzantine narrative from an ecocritical perspective, therefore, can expose the attitudes and behaviors which justified human control over nature, the means by which such control was exerted and the anxieties which emerged from the limits of the exercise of such power as depicted in the corpus of medieval Greek romances.

The natural world permeated and molded Byzantine civilization in a way perhaps difficult for modern readers to understand.  This study, therefore, has implications for the study of Byzantine literature and, more broadly, for Byzantine cultural, intellectual and environmental history.

Adam Goldwyn