Alf Siewers and Max

"Language is everything, since it is the voice of no one, since it is the very voice
of the things, the waves, and the forests." --Maurice Merleau-Ponty glossing Paul Valéry
Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything."--Gregory of Nyssa
(Below) Susquehanna Headwaters at Lake Otsego and kayaking with the Summer
Institute on the West Branch by Montgomery; (Bottom) Susquehanna Confluence

Bucknell on the Susquehanna/Environmental Humanities Video
Stories of the Susquehanna
Interview on Environmental Humanities

My work focuses on ecocriticism, ecopoetics, and ecosemiotics, in medieval and other non-modern literatures, and in Romanticism and classic modern fantasy; as well as on approaches to contemporary issues of sustainability and social justice from perspectives in the humanities and traditional cultures. Specific areas of research and teaching include Christian apophaticism and its literary expressions, especially the writings of John Scottus Eriugena; early Welsh, Irish, English, and Icelandic literatures; Classical and medieval rhetoric; and the writings of James Fenimore and Susan Fenimore Cooper, Samuel Coleridge, and Joseph Priestley, as they relate to the Susquehanna Valley. Current projects include an edited collecton on ecosemiotics and a study of ecopoetics in the Susquehanna Valley.

Recent writings besides Strange Beauty and Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages include: "Pre-Modern Ecosemiotics: The Green World as Literary Ecology," in The Space of Culture-The Place of Nature (University of Tartu Press); "Ecopoetics and the Origins of English Literature" in Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century (Routledge); "Desert Islands: Europe's Atlantic Archipelago as Ascetic Landscape," in Studies in the Medieval Atlantic (Palgrave Macmillan, New Middle Ages); "Orthodoxy and Ecopoetics: The Green World in the Desert Sea" in Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation, forthcoming from Fordham University Press; "Spenser's Green World" from Early English Studies; "Ecocriticism" from A Dictionary of Cultural and Critical Theory; a review of Mining in a Medieval Landscape: The Royal Silver Mines of the Tamar Valley from Speculum (2011); a review of Ents, Elves and Eriador:The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien from Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching (2010); and a review of poetry on the life of biologist Alfred Russel Wallace in Temenos Academy Review 12 (2009). Earlier articles include "Landscapes of Conversion: Guthlac's Mound and Grendel's Mere as Expressions of Anglo-Saxon Nation-Building," in The Postmodern Beowulf (West Virginia University Press 2007) and 'The Greyest-Greenest-Bluest Eye: Colours of Martyrdom and Colours of the Winds as Iconographic Landscape" (Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 50 (2005): 31-66.



(Below) Skellig Michael: Early Irish monastic island, UNESCO World Heritage site. (Left) With Max at a house chapel in Beavertown, PA.

Associate Professor,English Department
Affiliate Faculty Member, Environmental Studies Program

Bucknell University,, 570-577-3575
Senior Fellow, Sophia Institute at Union Theological Seminary

Steering Committee Member and Founding Coordinator, Nature and Human Communities Initative/Place Studies Initiative, Environmental Center
Scadden Research Fellow, 2011
Series Co-Editor, Stories of the Susquehanna Valley project
Steering Committee Member, Environmental Studies
Executive Committee Member, English Department
Senior Fellow, Environmental Residential College, 2010-11
, 2012-13

(Above) Well of Columba in an old oak grove at Durrow in Ireland; once a community founded by the sixth-century Irish-Scottish saint. and probable home to the famous Book of Durrow..

My latest book is Strange Beauty: Ecocritical Approches to Early Medieval Landscape. Of it Prof. Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington University) wrote: "Siewers' book will put environmental approaches to medieval literature and culture on the critical agenda. The geographic and temporal dynamism that it allows its texts is inspirational. Well-chosen as well is the emphasis upon the Otherworld, the perfect imagined geography through which to think the project’s cluster of questions.” Prof. Lawrence Buell (Harvard): "I learned a great deal from Siewers’ analysis of the phenomenology and ideology of place.... a subtle and erudite book.” Prof. John Carey (National University of Ireland, Cork): "a book rich in ideas, which finds in the ancient texts a vision, and a wisdom, which can speak to the predicaments of our own time.” Prof. Lisa Kiser (Ohio State), Medieval Review: "scholarly honesty and integrity at every turn.... suggesting thereby the relevance of early Irish culture to today's sophisticated ecophilosophical thought.... exactly the right sort of voyage for those seeking spiritual dimensions in their environments." Ilse Schweitzer (Western Michigan), ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment: "Innovative and captivating readings of this [Otherworld] landscape trope, offering a theoretical foundation based upon the surprisingly complementary philosophies of the ninth-century John Scottus Eriugena and the twentieth-century Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari....impressive in the depth of research and reading....sets a high standard for future ecocritical studies of medieval literature."Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages, co-edited with Prof. Jane Chance, is now out in paperback.


See the earth and take it to heart....
Let the earth, always present and remembered, be an ally to reason.
--Basil of Caesarea


B.A., Brown University, M.S.J. Medill School of Journalism (Northwestern); M.A. Early British Studies, University of Wales at Aberystwyth; M.A. and Ph.D., English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Former Urban Affairs Writer, Chicago Sun-Times. Three-time winner of the Peter Lisagor Award for Examplary Journalism (one for the series "Lost Horizons" on regional ecological restoration), among other awards. Former Chicago Correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. Environmental writings have appeared in Whole Earth, Chicago Wilderness, Illinois Issues, Restoration and Management Notes.
Winner of Bucknell President's Award for Teaching Excellence and co-recipient of Bucknell's Maxwell Award for Administrative Excellence.

Resource links: Environmental Humanities, Medieval Studies Resources

"From Cú Chulainn to Cordell Walker: The Ranger 'Mans Up' to Cosmic Marriage," paper at Bucknell Women's Studies/CSREG Masculinity Series, 11/16/12. Accompanying video.

"Green Worlds and Ecosemiotics," talk to the University of Virginia Medieval Studies Program, 11/21/11. Accompanying slides.

"The Early Medieval Sublime," paper at the Sophia Institute, Union Theological Seminary, Dec. 2, 2011.

Paper at SPEP 2011, NPR session of IAEP:
"Early Christian Perspectives on American Nature: The Dissenting Views of James Fenimore and Susan Fenimore Cooper"

Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment conference paper 2011:
"The Ecosemiosphere: Story and Region in Insular Medieval Literatures"
Accompanying slides

International James Fenimore Cooper Conference paper 2011:
"Cooper, Coleridge and Re-Imagining a Native Cosmology"
Accompanying slides

2009 James Fenimore Cooper Society Conference paper:
"Cooper's Green World: Adapting Ecosemiotics to the Mythic Eastern Woodlands"

"Ecocriticism," talk at the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, 1/29/10

WKOK "Leaders and Lawmakers" summer 2011 interview on Susquehanna studies, environmental humanities, and the environment and spirituality.