Words of Re-Enchantment, by Anthony Nanson,
Reviewed by Paul Cudby
A mine of thought provoking essays for those interested in the importance of story-telling in changing how we relate to the natural world. This book is a collection of articles and papers by the author on the theme of the value of story-telling from an eco-spiritual perspective. As such it is perfect for readers such as myself who wish to take their first steps into a subject about which they recognise the importance but with which they are largely unfamiliar.
It consists of three sections, Myth, Storytelling and Ecobardic with the latter collection having perhaps a more academic slant. As you might expect from an experienced storyteller and teacher of creative writing, each chapter carries well presented and thought-provoking insights which I found deeply inspirational. The lengthy bibliography reveals quite how well researched this collection of essays are, yet Nanson writes in a way which, while clearly an expert in this field, does not read as an academic text book and manages to remain accessible throughout.
To give some insight into the subject matter and the challenge that Nanson recognises he faces, the following comes from the chapter titled, ‘How Can Storytelling Re-enchant the Natural World: ‘By re-enchanting nature, storytelling may aspire – alongside diverse other efforts – to help foster a collective sensibility that constrains the exploitation of the earth’s resources and seeks the mutual flourishing of humankind and nature. However, this lofty ambition flies against the biological instinct of human nature to pursue short-term self-interest above all else.’ Nanson’s ideals and ambitions are well-earthed in the reality of 21st century climate change and the difficulties faced by the global population in changing the habits of generations to exploit rather than value the planet and her resources, but he puts forth a strong case for the role story-telling has in changing hearts and minds through revealing a world which transcends a simple materialist understanding.
If I were to make any criticism, and it a small one, it is that some editorial culling would have been useful in the ‘Storytelling’ section in which there are two or three very short articles, (a couple of pages each) which are essentially reviews of productions and performances that the author has watched. Having not seen them myself they seemed rather superfluous to the general tone of the collection but, given that they amount to no more than a handful of pages, these do not detract from the overall flow of the book.
Nanson clearly writes from a spiritually well-read and experiential perspective. He remains objective and open-minded, including writing in positive terms about Christ which comes as a refreshing change in an eco-spiritual context. He writes from the perspective of one who has engaged with a wide range of spiritualities and is well-informed and writes clearly and inspiringly about these other approaches. In short, an excellent book which clearly argues the case for story-telling as a neglected yet positive force for change in re-enchanting humanity with the natural world of which it is a part.
Paul Cudby is the author of The Shaken Path, coming soon from Christian Alternative.
You can find out more about Words of Re-Enchantment here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/words_of_re-enchantment.html