Since everyone under the sun is going green, shouldn’t Shakespeare too get into the act? He already has. Scholars are examining the Bard’s plays in terms of the “ecology of the self” (see, for example, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the boundaries between human and animal), and they’re considering the idea of “nature” in Renaissance England (see, for example, As You Like It and its contrast between city and countryside).
The label scholars use for such studies is “ecocriticism,” and one of those scholars, Scott Newstok of Rhodes College, defines the term accordingly: “Ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the natural environment. And whereas many environmental-studies scholars have approached the subject from the natural sciences, humanities scholars address environmental issues from a historical, philosophical, and literary perspective, seeking to clarify our very presumptions about what we mean when we speak about ‘nature’ or ‘the environment.’”
Those environmental issues can go from theological notions of the universe to contemporary garden design.
Eager to learn more? Newstok (who recently co-edited a collection of essays titled Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance) has organized a symposium (free and open to the public) at Rhodes on Friday, March 26th. The keynote speaker is Robert Watson of UCLA, whose award-winning Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance has been praised as “the most powerful and wide-ranging ‘green’ reading of early modern literature that has yet emerged.” Watson will be joined in a roundtable discussion by other scholars to discuss the “state of the field.” For more information on the symposium, go to rhodes.edu/shakespeare. — Leonard Gill