Höing, Anja

Reading Divine Nature

Religion and Nature in English Animal Stories

Stories about talking animals enjoy an exceptional popularity in English literature and in children's fiction in particular. Animal stories of the final years of the twentieth and the first years of the twenty-first century often fuse motifs of nature with motifs of religion, and in doing so harness religious discourse to an environmental agenda. Examining a corpus of more than two dozen late twentieth century and early twenty-first century talking-animal stories, Anja Höing traces the manifold connections between nature and religion in talking-animal stories. These connections range from descriptions of natural spaces as mystical or spiritual to depictions of animate nature as a genuine deity, and they often include re-conceptualisations of religious motifs in environmental dimensions. Exploring motifs such as the saviour or the devil, the author argues that talking-animal stories construct 'Nature' as a quasi-religious entity and the animal protagonist as an environmental role model. Establishing links between literary texts and current conceptions of ecosystems as well as socio-cultural debates on the human place in nature, this study proposes that many animal stories simultaneously deconstruct and reinforce a human/nature dualism and in doing so reflect the very ideology they seek to challenge.

ISBN 978-3-86821-711-7, 284 S., kt., € 34,00 (2017)

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