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ENTA UN3340 Environmental crisis on the Shakespearean Stage. 4 points.

Our current environmental crisis has fractured familiar narratives about the relationship between humanity and the natural world. To begin reimagining this relationship, this seminar will turn back the clock to the Renaissance and the birth of the English theater industry, where Shakespeare and his contemporaries were still attempting to understand what counts as “nature” within the confines of the playhouse. We will explore the forest of Arden with its “tongues in trees” and “books in the running brooks” from As You Like It, the stormy heath beset by “cataracts and hurricanos” in King Lear, and the “wild waters” of the Mediterranean agitated by Prospero in The Tempest alongside environments that might not seem immediately “natural” to us today, including the ruins of Catholic cloisters, bloody battlefields, polluted fountains, smoke-spewing hell mouths, and the empty streets of a city wracked by plague. By considering these diverse environments together, this seminar will not only complicate our modern distinction between nature and culture, but it will also trace the many ways that environmental crisis materialized both on and off stage in the early modern period.

To deepen our conversation about premodern environments, this seminar will also engage with current scholarship in ecocriticism – a growing critical field that investigates the representational problems posed by our current environmental crisis. Our course will consider what the settings, conventions and resource management strategies of the early modern stage might have to teachus about the ways we think of, interact with, or use “nature” today. As we make our way through some of the period’s most experimental plays, we will also consider how the theater, due to its generic variety, its embodied form, and its material dependencies, might be uniquely positioned to model living within and reckoning with environmental crisis or change.