ENGL 635 B1: Shakespeare and Ecological Crisis

C. Sale

'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 demanded, in relation to climate crisis, at a 2018 Shakespeare conference devoted to considering what Shakespeare brings to contemporary political concerns. This graduate seminar responds to ecological crisis as a condition that cannot be ignored - indeed, a condition that demands that we ask what literary readings of any kind are, in the face of it, for. Students will engage the question by reading select plays of Shakespeare in relation to various theoretical, polemical, and literary critical readings on ecological crisis. Our principal goal is to investigate the extent to which the historical body of literature represented by a half-dozen plays from Shakespeare's dramatic canon helps us understand the roots of ecological crisis and our capacity to address its existential challenges.

Primary Texts: A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Hamlet, Lear, The Tempest, Macbeth

Readings (some required, some optional) will include:

  • Jem Bendell, "Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy" (2018)
  • Jorge Bergolio (Pope Francis), Laudato Si' (2015)
  • Craig Dionne, Posthuman Lear: Reading Shakespeare in the Anthropocene (2016)
  • Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2015)
  • Jairus Victor Grove, Savage Ecology: War and Geopolitics at the End of the World (2019)
  • Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016)
  • Polly Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide: Laws and Governance to Stop the Destruction of the Planet (2016)
  • Naomi Klein, ch. 11 of This Changes Everything (2014), 'You and What Army?: Indigenous Rights and the Power of Keeping Our Word'
  • Bruno Latour, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime (2018)
  • Alexis Shotwell, Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times (2016)
  • Tyson Yunkaporta, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World (2020)
  • David Wallace Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth (2019)
  • Sheila Watt-Cloutier, The Right to be Cold (2015)
  • Kyle Powys Whyte, "Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene," pp. 153-162 in English Language Notes 55.1-2 (2017).