Jeffrey J. Cohen and Julian Yates, Noah’s Arkive – University of Minnesota Press, June 2023

Jeffrey J. Cohen and Julian Yates, Noah’s Arkive – University of Minnesota Press, June 2023

Most people know the story of Noah from a children’s bible or a play set with a colorful ship, bearded Noah, pairs of animals, and an uncomplicated vision of survival. Noah’s ark, however, will forever be haunted by what it leaves to the rising waters so that the world can begin again. 

In Noah’s Arkive, 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.

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