When Nature speaks, what does she say? To whom does she lecture or lament? And, given that the authors of many of the late medieval texts in which Nature speaks were learned male clerics and courtiers, who was actually doing the talking? These are the questions that Kellie Robertson takes up in her significant and wide-ranging book, Nature Speaks: Medieval Literature and Aristotelian Philosophy. Building creatively on the work of Barbara Newman and George Economou, Robertson argues skillfully that Nature’s voice in late medieval literary texts produced in northern France and England expresses different possibilities for considering the ethics of creation, and different answers to the question of whether or not humanity is a part of nature, or stands separate from it. Between the middle of the thirteenth and the middle of the fifteenth century Nature appears in allegorical poetry in Latin, Old French, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English. Sometimes she wields an ax or proffers a book, and she often addresses the audience directly, a figure who “excites intentional ethical engagement on the part of the audience” (p. 19). Adopting (or appropriating) Nature’s voice allowed the male clerics who wrote this poetry to argue against textual authorities, or to
Early Science and Medicine – Brill
Published: Nov 9, 2017
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