What do Margaret Atwood, Christian creation care, and the apocalypse have in common? If you’re familiar with Atwood’s past criticism of organized religion, you might be expecting a punchline. But in fact Dr. Deborah Bowen, professor of English, has spent the last year researching the connections between them as part of her 2015 Zylstra grant project: “EcoAtwood meets EcoChristianity.”
“Some environmentalists see being hopeful as kind of a cop out, a way of escaping reality. I don’t have that option as a person of faith. We’re called to live in hope.”
Bowen employs Atwood’s dystopian, post-apocalyptic MaddAddam trilogy as a vehicle for exploring our culture’s anxiety over environmental apocalypse and how the Christian story might speak to these concerns. “The Christian story ends with an apocalypse which heralds a renewed earth for redeemed people,” Bowen notes. Hope is at the centre of Bowen’s research, something she knows is an anomaly. “Some environmentalists see being hopeful as kind of a cop out, a way of escaping reality. I don’t have that option as a person of faith. We’re called to live in hope.”
The Zylstra grant provided Bowen with the time and resources needed to strengthen her research agenda. She has since gone on to win a prestigious 2016 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Grant, awarded at$15,885. Research that began as an exploration of hopeful connections between the literary, the ecological, and the divine has evolved into a government-funded project investigating agency and hope in environmentally-focused poetry in southern Ontario.