Modern scholarship on early medieval views of nature tends to rely too heavily on binary interpretations of positive and negative representations. This article uses an early ninth-century Anglo-Latin poem, Æthelwulf’s De abbatibus (“On the abbots” of an unknown Northumbrian monastic community), as a window into the ways in which early medieval people saw their natural world not as a passive space for human activity, but as an active participant in religious life. This reading comports with ecocritical interpretations of Æthelwulf’s poem alongside contemporary Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture. An understudied text, Æthelwulf’s De abbatibus provides an opportunity to understand how early medieval people could situate nature at a narrative’s center, crediting it with the capacity to shape religious behavior and belief. Æthelwulf’s work should be seen among a rich late antique and early medieval literary and artistic tradition of ecological imagination, in which nature was an interpretive key for articulating religious identity and community.

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