Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Medieval angst about climate change?

Sea is swallowed, flaming burn the heavens,
Moon falls, Middle Earth burns....

                              Muspilli, v53-54

Extinction-grade cataclysms require official authorization to support their imagined arrival. Muspilli, the Weltuntergang, the annihilation of Middle Earth, the Flood, the Fire-next-timeall end-of-the-world scenarios achieve legitimacy through the agency of a Grand Signifier. For the Middle Ages, this could only be the Bible; in our time it is "science" that fills the same function. Those who support political action to reduce global warming will argue that "most scientists agree that...," while those opposed will say that "scientists are unable to demonstrate that...," and so on. What remains constant from medieval to modern is the underlying fear that indeed our precious yet precariously positioned world will someday come to a terrible end.

Other ruminations about  Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 28. f. 66v can be found by Jeffrey J Cohen and others here.

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