Shakespeare and Ecological Modernity: Wood, Glass, Gunpowder


This talk will consider how Shakes¬peare connects early modern envi¬ron¬mental history to ecological crises in the Anthropocene. The origins of some of today’s most urgent environmental problems – deforestation, fossil-fuel use, and the military industrial complex – can be traced to the sixteenth and seven¬¬teenth centuries. Staging contex¬tu¬al representations of these trends, Shakespeare set up imaginative dialo¬gues with spectators’ material lives and fostered new ecological awareness of the consequences of economic growth, personal consumption, and capitalized exploitation of the earth. In these moments of shared recognition, Shakespeare also points towards the folly of human aspirations to dominate the planet and today’s belated understanding of the biosphere’s long-term, infinitely complex sovereignty over us.

Randall Martin graduated from the universities of Toronto, Birmingham, and Oxford and now teaches at the University of New Brunswick. He is the author of Shakespeare and Ecology (2015) and Women, Murder, and Equity in Early Modern England (2007). He has edited Every Man Out of His Humour for the Cambridge Complete Works of Ben Jonson (2012), Henry VI Part Three for the Oxford Shakespeare (2001), and Women Writers in Renaissance England for Longmans Annotated Texts (1997). With Katherine Scheil he has co-edited Shakespeare / Adaptation / Modern Drama: Essays in Honour of Jill L. Levenson (2011). He is currently finishing a book entitled Shakespeare, St Paul, and the Origins of Dramatic Modernity.

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