The Triumph of Eywa: Avatar, Pantheism, and the Sign of an Ecological Ecumene

  • Anthony Lioi The Juilliard School

Abstract

In an op-ed piece published in late 2009 in the New York Times, Ross Douthat claimed that James Cameron’s film Avatar was a piece of pantheist propaganda designed to encourage the worship of nature rather than God. In this essay, I critique Douthat’s claims as a misunderstanding of pantheism and a symptom of conservative Christian fear that environmentalism is crypto-paganism. I offer an alternative reading of Eywa, the film’s planetary intelligence, as a creature, a figure of the Christian goddess Natura; a descendant of literary paganism; and a sign of an incipient Christian environmental ecumene. 

 

En un artículo de opinión publicado a finales de 2009 en el New York Times, Ross Douthat afirmó que la película de James Cameron, Avatar, era un ejemplo de propaganda panteísta diseñada para animar a la adoración de la naturaleza en vez de a Dios. En este ensayo, evalúo las afirmaciones de Douthat, clasificándolas como un malentendido sobre el panteísmo y como un síntoma del temor cristiano conservador de que el ambientalismo sea cripto-paganismo. Ofrezco una interpretación alternativa de Eywa, la inteligencia planetaria de la película, como una criatura, una figura de la diosa cristiana Natura, una descendiente del paganismo literario, y un indicio de una incipiente ecúmene ambiental cristiana.


 

 


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Author Biography

Anthony Lioi, The Juilliard School
Anthony Lioi is associate professor of Liberal Arts and English at the Juilliard School in New York City. He did his undergraduate work at Brown University and his graduate work at Rutgers University. His ecocriticism has been published in ISLE, Feminist Studies, Transformations, MELUS, ImageTexT, CrossCurrents  and in collections such as Coming into Contact and Early Modern Ecostudies. He lives in the Raritan watershed in New Jersey, USA.
Published
2011-12-19
Section
Ecospirit: Religion and the Environment