‘Why aren’t we acting like we’re in a state of emergency? Why aren’t we acting like we’re at war?’ Australian academic Peter Holbrook recently demanded at a Shakespeare conference devoted to considering what Shakespeare brings to contemporary political concerns. This seminar responds to ecological crisis as a condition that cannot be ignored — indeed, a condition that demands we ask what literary readings of any kind are, in the face of it, for, or rather what (if anything) they might do, indirectly or otherwise, in this moment of global emergency. Students will engage the question by reading select plays of Shakespeare in relation to the growing body of ‘ecocritical’ writing on Shakespeare, readings in political ecology, and various attempts (including by the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg) to ‘common’ the problem and secure the necessary political action. As the seminar’s considerations will turn on questions of praxis, for their major assignment for the course, students will have the option of writing a research paper or material for public dissemination that, in one way or another, responds and aims to contribute to ecological crisis.
Primary Texts: As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida, Hamlet, Lear, Pericles