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In Their Own Voices: A ‘Kenotic’ Approach to Animal Studies and Ecotheology

  • Author(s): Yocum, Demetrio
  • et al.

Human interactions with nonhuman animals, in the Anthropocene, are increasingly marked by incomprehension and violence. More than at any other time in human history, we are called to listen to the cries of fellow creatures, what Scriptures refer to as the “groaning” of the earth. For centuries, Italy has offered the model of Francis of Assisi who, even before preaching to birds, saving lambs, and taming a wolf, knew how to listen to them in a self-emptying act of recognition of “animals” (from anima) as “brothers’ and “sisters,” thus bridging the ontological divide between humans and animals. Through a kenotic reading of Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures, this essay explores ethical questions emerging from the recent “animal turn” in theology, the humanities, and Italian literature. In particular, by focusing on recent readings of the poem, which include Luigi Santucci’s rewriting of the Canticle from the perspective of the animals and the papal encyclical Laudato Si’ (2015) together with the replies to it from the scholarly community published in Environmental Humanities, the essay argues that the Franciscan model of “farsi pusillo” (Dante, Par. 11.111) is still relevant today to envision compassionate and just multispecies relationships.


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