The Old English poem Christ III represents the Crucifixion not by focusing on Christ's suffering but by depicting natural disasters. In its representation of creation's upheavals, Christ III establishes an ecopoetics in which language can sketch but never fully fathom either the extent or, importantly, the causes of ecological catastrophe. Its forms suggest that creation's compassion for Christ's suffering actually results in violent self-destruction—a suggestion that troubles twenty-first-century narratives of ecological catastrophe and human responsibility. Although the motif of creation's sympathy with Christ appears throughout medieval theology, Christ III's treatment of this motif raises two sets of questions about medieval depictions of catastrophe, one set focused on represention of ecological catastrophe and one focused on causes of catastrophe. Christ III leads the reader to experience the impossibility of fully understanding catastrophe, forcing the reader to question the individual's role in catastrophe.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| January 01 2022
“They Saw Mute Creation Trembling”: Forms of Catastrophe in the Old English Christ III
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2022) 52 (1): 41–67.
Evelyn Reynolds; “They Saw Mute Creation Trembling”: Forms of Catastrophe in the Old English Christ III. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2022; 52 (1): 41–67. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-9478468
Download citation file: