Jeffrey J. Cohen and Julian Yates, "Noah's Arkive" (U Minnesota Press, 2023)


At a moment when the world has tipped over into irreversible violence and corruption, a divinity contacts a righteous man. The man is directed to build a giant ship and bring aboard animals, who will spend an indefinite amount of time living, sleeping, and eating alongside Noah and his family. The rain begins to fall, and these survivors take refuge on the ark. After forty days, the survivors disembark and then have to figure out how to create a new settlement as the waters recede. This cryptic, elliptical ancient story has inspired theological commentary, architecture, and children’s toys, giving us an abundance of metaphors and narratives to understand our past, present, and future climate crises. Our continuing attempts to critically examine the ark narrative and its long afterlife in our imagination is the subject of Jeffrey J. Cohen and Julian Yates’s new book Noah’s Arkive, just published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2023.

Jeffrey Cohen is Dean of Humanities at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. Jeffrey’s previous books include Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (University of Minnesota Press, 2015); Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: Of Difficult Middles (Palgrave, 2006); and Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages (University of Minnesota, 1999). Julian Yates is H. Fletcher Brown Professor of English and Material Culture at the University of Delaware. Julian’s previous books include Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast: A Multispecies Impression (2017); and Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance (2002), both from the University of Minnesota Press.

More about the book:

In Noah's Arkive (U Minnesota Press, 2023), Jeffrey J. Cohen and Julian Yates examine the long history of imagining endurance against climate catastrophe—as well as alternative ways of creating refuge. They trace how the elements of the flood narrative were elaborated in medieval and early modern art, text, and music, and now shape writing and thinking during the current age of anthropogenic climate change. Arguing that the biblical ark may well be the worst possible exemplar of human behavior, the chapters draw on a range of sources, from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Ovid’s tale of Deucalion and Pyrrah, to speculative fiction, climate fiction, and stories and art dealing with environmental catastrophe. Noah’s Arkive uncovers the startling afterlife of the Genesis narrative written from the perspective of Noah’s wife and family, the animals on the ark, and those excluded and left behind to die. This book of recovered stories speaks eloquently to the ethical and political burdens of living through the Anthropocene.

Following a climate change narrative across the millennia, Noah’s Arkive surveys the long history of dwelling with the consequences of choosing only a few to survive in order to start the world over. It is an intriguing meditation on how the story of the ark can frame how we think about environmental catastrophe and refuge, conservation and exclusion, offering hope for a better future by heeding what we know from the past.

John Yargo is Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities at Boston College. He earned a PhD in English literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, specializing in the environmental humanities and early modern culture. In 2023, his dissertation won the J. Leeds Barroll Prize, given by the Shakespeare Association of America. His peer-reviewed articles have been published or are forthcoming in the Journal for Early Modern Culture Studies, Early Theatre, Studies in Philology, and Shakespeare Studies.

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John Yargo

John Yargo is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities at Boston College. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His specializations are early modern literature, the environmental humanities, and critical race studies. His dissertation explores early modern representations of environmental catastrophe, including William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, and John Milton's Paradise Lost. He has published in Early Theatre, Studies in Philology, The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, and Shakespeare Studies.

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