Ecocritics hired to deliver English language and literature courses in universities and other post-secondary education institutes confront at many junctures in their careers social and political imperatives to teach English language and literature by actively bringing into their teaching and research content that is related to environmental activism, or by committing to what will be called here pedagogical literary environmental activism. In this article, I discuss an ongoing project aimed at contributing to this kind of activism as the latter is reflecting the opening out of English language and literature to concerns that once were considered separate from these two subject areas. The project ecocritically relates work by environmental activists situated outside of English and the humanities to the work of scholars who analyze literary texts and it does so by addressing one of the most pressing issues confronting humans and other planetary species today: The loss of tree species and the ecosystems that they contribute to and depend upon. The literary text that is discussed is the anonymous Old English poem, "The Dream of the Rood" (ca. 700-1000 CE). I argue that it addresses deforestation in the specific ecological and environmental contexts of massive planetary deforestation caused by humans in the current so-called anthropocene era. In making this argument I draw on definitions of ecocriticism by Lawrence Buell, J. Scott Bryson, and Ursula K. Heise. I also make some brief but necessary remarks on ecofeminism and I refer to biosemiotic theory (Wendy Wheeler) and to an argument that Sharon O'Dair makes in defense of reading and teaching texts from "presentist" perspectives.
Forum for World Literature Studies 6(2), pp.320-334