Shakespeare and the Environment (NEMLA, Montreal, April 7-10, 2010; abstracts due September 30, 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Miles Taylor / Le Moyne College
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In what ways does Shakespeare imagine the natural world in his plays and poems, and how do those depictions set the stage on which his characters act? In a tragedy like King Lear, Shakespeare envisions a nature that can strip away the layers and accretions of culture that have blinded the protagonist. Is that the same nature as the “green world” of his comedies? Or is the Forest of Ardenne not just a different space but a different kind of nature than the heath? How might we read the island environment of The Tempest, and Prospero’s control over the elements? Do Shakespeare’s histories posit a sense of the land itself, and if so, do they conceive of a workable way to live in harmony with nature? Beyond genre, does gender affect the ways Shakespeare’s characters relate to the natural world? One notices that the landscape in “A Lover’s Complaint” is always feminized, and that Venus, in her seduction of Adonis, describes her own body as a park; perhaps associating the land with sexual conquest is not without significance in the way we have read physical spaces. Are there ways that Shakespeare’s treatment of physical space shapes our own understanding of the environment? Are there in his plays ways of seeing nature that are instructive? This panel will explore both the depiction of the natural world in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry and the consequent paths that characters take given the ways they read the environment. Rather than simply applying ecocriticism to Shakespeare, this panel aspires to disclosing the environmental worldviews latent within Shakespeare. Send abstracts and brief bio paragraph to Miles Taylor ( by September 30, 2009.

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