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Alan Cumming’s Macbeth

2013-05-20 17.26.55This One-Scot Show was my end-of-semester treat, and this poster gets it right, if hitting the spot means catching you between the eyes. The production interwove an inventive performance by Cumming that only occasionally slipped into caricature — mainly in his whining, petulant child-king Duncan — against a spare institutional backdrop. The performance opened in silence, as a female doctor and husky male orderly medicated Cumming and changed him into a hospital gown. He clutched a paper bag labelled “Evidence” that will eventually reveal a child’s sweater, later appropriated to play the part of Macduff’s doomed son. Concerned faces on the medical personnel implied that the patient might at any time explode, implode, or scatter his bloody fragments about the stage. (But we know that already from Shakespeare.) The first lines spoken were also the first lines in Macbeth, but they worked doubly, referring both to the Weird Sisters and to the institutional trio — patient, doctor, orderly — who are the only figures on stage:

When shall we three meet again?

Some reviewers found the constant shuttling among different characters distracting, and it clearly confused at least a few of the chattering people sitting near me in the theater. There were some over-flashy touches, like the rapid-towel shifting that switched from Lady Macbeth — torso covered — to Macbeth — naked to the waist — but in general Cumming gave an engaging performance and has a great, clear, Scottish voice. The shifts were disorienting enough to draw attention away from some powerful speechs, especially early in the performance, but others took on new force:

Is this a dagger which I see before me?

photo (1)The backdrop of mental illness made the hero somewhat less than awe-ful in both the ethical and purely theatrical senses. I can’t agree with Ron Rosenbaum that this production provided unique insight into the nature of evil, but by performing the play as a kind of auto-investigation, self-generated therapy or protest against therapeutic invasion, it does show off the paranoid closeness of perhaps Shakespeare’s most hero-centric play. The super-warrior who unseams his enemies from the nave to the chops isn’t much in evidence, but Cumming’s mad, obsessed figure, dragging himself from bed to bathtub to sink, always aware of the overlooking eyes of his attendants and their three video camera-witches, provided menace and danger. He also became, perhaps because he’s the only person to look at much of the time, powerfully sympathetic, in a slightly disjointed, almost Beckettian way.2013-05-20 17.26.41

It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.

The most powerful prop on stage was a large doll, dressed in pink, that stood for baby-prince Malcolm, named heir to boy-king Duncan. Without engaging over-much in extra-textual speculations of the sort mocked in the famous essay, “How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth?” I kept thinking that the emotional core of this production wasn’t so much vaulting ambition or shared lust for power but a fundamental rage against the Child and the futurity that children represent. (Does Lee Edelman talk about Macbeth in No Future? He did recently write a great essay on Hamlet.)  When the doll gets propped up on the wheelchair-throne for the final tableau, it’s hard not to feel that Macbeth’s death — the conflict with Macduff ends with “him” drowned in the bathtub, where Macduff’s sweater-son had also been immersed — marks the triumph of an infant’s future over an adult’s present.

How does your patient, doctor?

Addressed to the female doctor who has returned to the stage, this line, like the performance’s opening line, works both within the theatrical frame and in Shakespeare’s play. It also edges toward the death of Lady Macbeth, often the emotional high point of the play. The last great Macbeth I saw, by Cheek by Jowl in 2011, had me wanting a production of just the love story, with no one on stage but Him and Her. Cumming’s performance of the marriage was quite strong — he did slightly overdo some of the sexual impersonation jokes when Lady Macbeth read her letter in the bath, and the inventive staging of her seducing her husband into the murder seemed to rely on a sophomoric reading of the line, “Screw your courage to the sticking point.” The central loss or crime or catastrophe in the ambiguous frame story seemed to involve a child, but Lady Macbeth, and the concerned, sympathetic female doctor, were somehow at the heart of it too.

…full of sound and fury, / Signifying…signifying…signifying…nothing.

Certain lines in Shakespeare are too over-familiar to be performed easily. At times Cumming’s soliloquies, in particular, suffered from their clear, direct enunciation: we know the words already, I wanted to say, what else can you do? (Sometimes I think I’m not the intended audience for Shakespeare on Broadway.) Probably the most interesting twist on a canonical phrase was Cumming’s triple-take on what follows sound and fury. He struggled and stopped three times before getting to “nothing,” as if he couldn’t quite get through it, couldn’t quite accept his wife’s off-stage death, his pronouncement of an absurdist universe, the rounding close of the play itself. What comes before nothing?

2013-05-20 17.27.10In the end Cumming’s production stayed, of necessity, within one head. It was propelled by rage of the present against the future, the desire never to cede the stage, not to be displaced –

If it ’twere done, when ’tis done, ’twere well

It were done quickly…

We watched on the video feed as the hero held himself underwater in the bath where young Macduff had been drowned. He couldn’t hold out, and emerged with a splash. Exhausted, avoiding the enthroned doll at center stage, he dragged himself back to his hospital bed. He looked up at the doctor.

When shall we three meet again?

A great performance of the theatrical ”now,” packed into a scant 100 minutes. The sun was going down as I left the Barrymore Theater.

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Three Nows for Temporal Thinking

This post has been hanging around half-finished since the periodization kerfluffle some time ago. I’ll post it now as a place-holder for more thinking about that slipperiest of temporal modifiers, “now.” As in, right now, exactly now, this particular time — but that just-spoken now is gone & then, not now anymore.

Here are three quick literary markers (hatches?) for thinking the now –

1. Iago’s “now, now, very now” — an erotic, off-stage and unforgettable time, never visible but always happening. Rounding out the familiar line — “An old black ram…” — leads now down so many pathways of human errancy: sex, race, animals, the struggle for dominance…

2. Hardy’s world historical “Now!” from “The Convergence of the Twain”: “Till the Spinner of the Years / Said “Now!” And each one hears, / And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.”

3. Borges’s polytemporal “now” from “The Garden of the Forking Paths”: “Then I reflected that everything happens to a man precisely, precisely now. Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen; countless men in the air, on the face of the earth and the sea, and all that really is happening is happening to me…” (Labyrinths 20)

 

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King Lear by Wu Hsing-Kuo

I missed the Shakespeare Olympiad in London this summer, but saw  Wu Hsing-Kuo’s one-man Chinese opera version of King Lear last night — pretty amazing.

Wu, a trained master of Chinese opera who has broken with tradition by staging Western literary classics, made Lear into a vehicle for psychodrama, leaving much of the play’s action to the side and embracing the internal dilemma of Lear as character. As Alex Huang oberserves in an excellent essay on Wu’s career,

The tension between father and child in King Lear is turned into an allegory about Wu’s uneasy relationship with his jingju [Beijing opera] master.

Act 1, “The Play,” starts and ends in storm. I always think of these scenes as the heart of the play, but it was great to cut directly to it, to see the rest of the place as architecture surrounding this basic confrontation of human body with unfriendly elements. Wu’s Lear engages himself, his elaborate costume, his long white beard, and his world in an apparently vain attempt to connect. It’s Shakespeare as Beckett — interesting the Wu has also performed “Waiting for Godot” — and it’s both intense and moving.

Act 2, “Playing,” followed a 20 min intermission with manic energy: Wu starts as the Fool then becomes Lear’s dog (!), followed by Kent, Lear, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, the blinded Gloucester, Edmund, and the “mad” Edgar, who calls himself, in one of a few English words spoken to comic effect, “Tom.” Particularly powerful as the evil sisters and as Gloucester seeking the cliffs of Dover, Wu’s physical inventiveness buoyed this longer act, constantly reinventing himself and his surroundings. His Gloucester climbed atop a large rock formation at the climax of this scene — the rocks had been half-broken human statues in Act 1 before they had fallen — and the roar of the ocean made this scene seem less invented, less acted, than it sometimes does on stage.

Act 3, “A Player,” features Wu playing himself, as the super-titles and program notes reveal. He’s still reconnizably King Lear, but filtered through Wu’s own struggles with his master, his artistic career, and perhaps — I’m not certain about this, or exactly what it amounts to– about the relationship between Chinese and English dramatic traditions. He performs no other characters, but when he walks on stage carrying the elaborate costume he wore in Act 1 in his arms, it’s hard not to thing of the old man bearing his daughter’s body.

I left thinking about Taiwan as an especially fraught cultural location, caught between China and a global world that has become increasingly, since Wu and  his colleagues started the Contemporary Legend Theater in 1986, Anglophone. Alex Huang reads Wu’s Lear — which apparently also goes under the title, Li Er zai ci [Lear Is Here], though the program last night, at New Haven’s Festival of Arts and Ideas, didn’t mention that — as a “local” rather than “global” production. I agree with his focus on the intimacy of the performance, the way Wu’s Lear burrows down into internal questions, so much that (for me at least) I felt the performance was richest in Acts 1 and 3, when he wasn’t switching between characters but was just the mad old king / Chinese Shakespearean actor, inviting the audience to see him try to work himself out.

The dialogue, spoken in Chinese but also projected with English translation on two screens flanking the stage, was largely — 2/3? — straight translations from the play, but an extended poetic riff on things that the self does to itself — I hate myself / I love myself / I forget myself / I imagine myself… — had the feeling of a strong distorting reading of the play rather than a production of it.

I’ll be thinking about Wu Hsing-Kuo the next time I see anyone else play this role.

This sort of thing isn’t for everyone, though the house was pretty full last night.  ”I would never,” said Olivia when I told her where I was going, “see a play with only one Chinese character.” Then she smiled to make sure I understood her joke, about “characters” being units of Chinese writing as well as people. Clever girl.

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Romeo and Juliet in CT

I’ll see this one twice this summer. Once tonight in Greenwich with Olivia and my colleague Lee Ann Brown and her daughter Miranda — possible that Olivia may convince me to decamp at halftime, either b/c she needs her 9-year old sleep or because the play’s so much happier without Acts 4 and 5.

Then again only July 18 with my summer Shakespeare class in Rowaytan.

Looking forward to it!

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Coriolanus

He’s a hard guy to look at close up.  Ralph Fiennes’s presentation of Caius Marcius Coriolanus hits with murderous intensity.  He is, as his make-up artists worked hard to show us, a “thing of blood.”

Transposing the Roman Republic to a faux-Bosnian contemporary warzone works surprisingly well, with the scruffy citizens as a rebelious mob, the Tribunes as Party Bosses, and Coriolanus and his fellow aristocrats as well-dressed generals in battle fatigues and bespoke suits.

Much of the film, esp. the early scenes in Corioles, is close-up action following the hero as warrior, heavily burdened by 21st-century battle gear, but still fighting intimate, hand to hand battles.  When he comes out of the mortal gates of the city, alone and covered with blood, it’s easy to see why he carried the day.

Fiennes is brilliant, and his movie-star face beneath make-up scarring and lots of blood communicates both Coriolanus’s powerful public inhibitions — the general seems physically unable to play to the crowd — and also his over-powerful heroic charisma.  He cannot be consul, he must be consul — and then suddenly he’s not.

The other performance that resonated was Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia.  I’m not sure she hit the final confrontation as powerfully as she might have — the famous pause, “holds her by the hand, silent,” wasn’t quite as wrenching as it might have been — but in the early scenes her palpable combination of pride, blood-lust, and maternal intimacy was gorgeous and hard to watch.  ”He is wounded,” she said with a sly smile that you almost felt you weren’t supposed to see, “I thank the gods for it.”  The production cut my favorite over the top line about the breasts of Hecuba and Hector’s Achilles-split skull, but the wolf mother’s brutal pride and terrible grip on her son was wonderfully visual.

But the hero’s isolation was the main visual point.  He was a general with no allies, no connection to family or country or troops.  Even the love-fight with Aufidius was never, in this version, an attraction of near equals, but instead a lonely dragon’s futile attempt to find someone in the world as violent as powerful as him.

I saw a little trace of Voldemort only once, in the film’s final moments when, after Coriolanus has betrayed his Volscian allies and saved Rome, Aufidius’s men murder the Roman on a deserted road.  The hero opens his moth spits his final words like the Dark Lord taunting Harry –

Alone I did it.  Boy!

As good a modern Shakespeare film as I’ve seen in a while.  

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“Half-fish, half-flesh”: The Poetics of Dolphins

I’m reading copy proofs today for a forthcoming article on dolphins in the early modern imagination.  It’ll be out fairly soon in The Indistinct Human, a great-looking collection edited by Jean Feerick and Vin Nardizzi.  I have some fun with Thomas Browne, Shakespeare, Lucian, Ovid, William Diaper, Thomas Pynchon, and a few others.

My favorite part was digging into the classical origin story, in which the first dolphins had been human pirates, transformed by the child-god Bacchus after they seemed ready to kidnap him.  Pirates and dolphins, with their frightening or happy faces, present inverse visions of the mammal-ocean relationship.

I also enjoyed writing the Mason & Dixon part –

To draw out the contemporary relevance of this human-dolphin hybrid, I’ll introduce each of the five remaining sections with an excerpt from a much more recent literary vision of humanity living intimately with the ocean, Thomas Pynchon’s postmodern historical novel, Mason & Dixon (1997).    My point in directing attention to an episode in the novel in which the eponymous cartographers inscribe a Line across the Atlantic where they eventually settle in quasi-oceanic space is to show how enticing and problematic the human-ocean boundary remains.  This episode of Mason & Dixon presents a postmodern literary iteration of the basic human desire to engage oceanic space that underwrites early modern representations of dolphins.  Pynchon’s novel uses imagined technology, rather than mammalian bodies, to create its utopian solution, but Pynchon’s portrayal of human life in direct, transformative contact with the deep reveals the continuing urgency of the fantasy dolphins represented in the early modern period and before.  In conclusion I shall bring Pynchon’s ocean-crossing Line together with early modern dolphin-humans to speculate about the changing relationship between technological utopianism and natural difference in visions of maritime humanity.

Still harping on that Aquaman Fantasy…

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Titus at PublicLab

An intense, high-spirited night last night at the Public.  Michael Sexton’s production of “Titus” was bloody bloody and lots of fun.  They really nailed the play’s strange combination of hyper-melodrama and almost-playfulness, leading up to an over-the-top finale at the final banquet, complete with (actual) buckets of blood, cartoon post-it notes, and a food-fight between Titus and Tamora with mushy pieces of pie.

In the chaos, Titus’s recipe almost sounded simple, a straightforward and literal way of making sense out of disorder –

Let me grind their bones to powder small,

And with this hateful liquor temper it,

And in that paste let their vile heads be bak’d.  (5.2.197-200)

Several performances stood out in a strong cast.  Jacob Fishel as Saturninus and Jennifer Ikeda as Lavina were both veterans of Red Bull’s brilliant Women beware Women in 2009, a production that gets better each time I remember it.  (I think about the old joke about Juan Rulfo, author of Pedro Paramo, whose reputation supposedly grew with each new novel he didn’t write.)  Fishe’ls fey Saturninus made me want a bigger part for him next time. Ikeda’s mute presence during Marcus’s interminable Ovidian lament upon discovering her maimed (“Alas, a crimson river of warm blood, / Like to a bubbling fountain…” 2.4.11-57) made a devastating critique of poetic fancies.

Ron Cephas Jones, who I thought did a decidedly mixed job as Caliban and Charles the wrestler in the Bridge Project’s As You Like It / Tempest double bill a few years ago, was a great Aaron: smart, sexy, charismatic , and powerful.  Strung up by Lucius and awaiting execution, he rained brags down on his captors’ heads –

Even now I curse the day — and yet I think

Few come within compass of my curse –

Wherein I did not do some notorious ill… (5.1.125-7)

Rob Campbell’s Lucius and Stephanie Roth Haberle’s Tamora were also strong, but I’m ambivalent about Jay O. Sanders as Titus.  He’s big and imposing, with a bear-ish presence that filled up the stage in army camo during the first scene — but too often, esp in the opening parts of the play, his bear was more teddy than grizzly.    He hit his stride after losing his mind, and in some ways the part felt more Lear-like and aged than I might have liked.  He made a compelling mad father, but less of a conquering general.  “I am the sea,” he claims when trumpeting his grief — but he didn’t quite get there, at least not for me.  The bad guys — Aaron, Saturninus, Tamora — had the flash in this production.

The lab-budget staging was great: a stack of maybe 3 dozen 8 x 4 plyboard sheets were moved, illustrated, and shuffled around to create almost everything — late in the action they were tables, kitchen counters, and an executioner’s board, earlier they had been thrones and gravestones and pits and caves.  I especially loved watching Frank Dolce, who played the boys’ parts, draw symbolic cartoons — birds, crowns, swords — on wood and on post-it notes, and Lavina’s mouth-held drawings in act 5 extended this conceit.

I also had the strange experience of slightly mis-hearing Aaron’s line about surprising Lavinia in the woods — I heard “The woods are roofless, dreadful, deaf, and dull,” but the line reads “ruthless” — and thinking Robert Frost.  Not sure what to make of that.

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Early Modern Theatricality at Rutgers

I caught the last half of a lively two-day conference at Rutgers last Friday.  Early Modern Theatricality in the 21st Century, organized by Henry Turner, brought an international crew together to put pressure on “theatricality.”   The organizing gambit was 10-minute papers and one-word titles, from “now” (Scott Maisano) to “formactions” (Simon Palfrey)  to “festivity” (Erika Lim) and “indecorum” (Ellen MacKay), plus a few dozen others.  I missed the early sessions, at which Henry seems to have entertained the crowd with multiple dramatic readings of the conference’s one-paragraph blurb, but caught the last 13 speakers in 2 sessions.

A couple things struck me.  Most of all was the concentrated effort to expand  theatricality’s range, to move this concept away from familiar haunts.  I missed Peter Womack’s “Offstage,” but many of the talks gestured beyond the wooden O to street festivals or Parliament or philosophy.  Even when we stayed on or near the stage, we often lurked at the margins, or at the borders between players and audience.

The presentations also collectively showed how little current criticism defines early modern drama as consubstantial with Shakespeare.  Will made some appearances, but his plays were part of a group and a broad culture of theatrical practice.  Perhaps the signature moment of this tendency came when Mike Witmore semi-apologized for drawing all the examples in his talk about “eventuality” from the final moments of Shakespeare’s romances, “because of where I work.”

Some familiar border skirmishes between history and literary habits showed themselves in a cluster of talks by Peter Lake (“Import”), Chris Kyle (“Parliament”) and Blair Hoxby (“Passions”), but in general the anachronism police were not in evidence.  Everyone seemed happy to think in divided chronologies, standing astride the 21st and 16th-17th centuries.  “Theatricality,” of course, is abstract enough to draw from both periods, w/o the special difficulties of a 19c term such as “ecology.”

I was left mulling about limits and senses of ending.  One of the things I love about going to the theater is that it ends, the curtain closes, and we get to go home.  If we invest our critical energies in pushing theatricality offstage, might we risk attenuating the pleasures of closure?  Where might theatricality end?  There is a significant performative aspect to all human interactions, but might the difference between theatricality and performativity be that theatricality is a sub-set, a special case in which a certain space and time gets marked off as different, temporary, luminous?  I’m tempted to think so.

We ran out of time before I could ask whatever half-phrased version of that question I was trying to squeeze in, but Scott Maisano’s conference-ending comment also pointed toward the limit or borders of the theatrical transaction.  Scott observed that Britomart’s ordeal in the House of Busirane (FQ III.12) contains virtually all the features of theatricality the conference had raised — but, as Scott did not polemically conclude, can a poetic epic really be theatrical?  Mike Witmore had also framed his talk by describing the pleasurable and bewildering experience of teaching Heliodorus to undergrads — but when I chatted with him about that at the break, he suggested that the scene in the Ethiopian court was an ekphrasis of the theater, & thus, perhaps, about theatricality even if not presented on stage.

Clearly both Spenser and Heliodorus are thinking hard about theatricality– but surely these moments are not theatrical is the same sense as The Winter’s Tale or the Shoemaker’s Holiday or a Lord Mayor’s show or even a session of Parliament?  Don’t we need at least two real human bodies in a particular shared space and time to have theatricality?

Poetic epics and prose romances can be theatrical, or meta-theatrical, or engage in a critique of theatricality.  But I suspect that it might be worth drawing a distinction between a performative enactment in an at least partially marked-off time and space, and a textual product like a poem or a prose fiction.  There are lots kinds of of overlap and exchanges between page and stage, and artifacts like a film or a digital audio file might blur these lines, since they are artifacts that contain traces of “real” bodies.  The long tradition of oral recitation as a primary means of transmitting prose texts — the “fair ladies” in Sidney’s Arcadia — also pushes these two modes together.  But bodies and words still might be distinguishable from words alone.

 

 

 

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Eco Shax

An eco shack

I’ve been thinking about the “Shakespeare and Ecology” forum in the recent Shakespeare Studies XXXIX, and the state of play in this sub-field.  The two editors, Garrett Sullivan and Julian Yates, gave the eight of us contributors free rein to engage the terms as we wished, though their introductory nods toward Latour’s “quasi-objects” and Michel Serres set a tone:

All of us…[in this post-human University] [are] engaged in an inquiry into a general physis or general theory of metaphor, clustered around a quasi-object that we are making.  There will be meetings. There may be telephone calls, Skype connections, chat rooms, or whatever it takes to render this or that entity present.

The referent is tellingly obscure, like Latour’s Parliment of Things, but I take it to represent the sub-field itself, early modern eco-studies, a quasi-object inventing itself over distributed space in the reasonably pace of academic time.  As usual in early modern studies, the flash points cluster around history.

Some of these essays, esp the first three by Jean Feerick, Mary Floyd-Wilson, and Vin Nardizzi, work to unpack particular historical meanings that have been obscured by later history, as in Feerick’s “human indistinction” from nature, Floyd-Wilson’s “vibrant inorganic matters,” or Nardizzi’s richly polyvalent “wood.”  A shift toward “very now” comes with Joshua Calhoun’s rather brilliant opening description of the cover of his paperback edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.  “Like the things it depicts,” Calhoun writes, “the cover must disintegrate” (64).  It’s a clever hook, connecting the material form in which we often read and teach these poems with their own poetic obsessions with time and decay.  Does that move automatically make this essay presentist?  Or — as I’d prefer — does Calhoun’s brief & stylish collapsing of time past and time present in readerly experience enable him to side-step the anachronism police?  “Plants still provide us with paper,” he writes a bit later, “and by extension, with Shakespeare.”

Sharon O’Dair, a champion of the present, playfully intersperses famous passages with textbook definitions of “ecology” and descriptions of the BP oil spill on coastal Alabama.  At the end, though, she flags a present-tense imperative:

For this reason I again urge my historicist early modern colleagues to engage this ecological and political movement — fully. …[T]he present is too important to be left to theorists.  The present is too important to ‘not act’ or do nothing.  We must act differently.

I sympathize with Sharon’s voice here, and I too am concerned about the relationship between early modern ecostudies and the historicist mainstream.  It also strikes me that, revolving around the pivot-paragraph in Calhoun, the remaining essays in the Forum lead with the present tense, as it were.  Evelyn Tribble and John Sutton extend their very convincing (to me, anyway) argument about the value of distributed cognition for thinking about theater and perhaps all public forms of art.  Bruce Smith’s stylish presentation of a continuum of ecological studies from Simon Estok’s “rigorously materialist” to Tim Morton’s “rigorously perceptualist” plays with Shakespeare’s texts as formal linguistic structures, ahistorical to a certain extent — and I do something fairly similar, I think, in my reading of blue and green ecological counter-currents swimming through Macbeth.

So: should we tabulate the eight papers into two halves?  Three historicist analyses with their ears tuned by contemporary eco-concerns (Feerick, Floyd-Wilson, Nardizzi), plus Calhoun’s reading of the sonnets that really belongs in this group, even though its present-tense opening pulls in the opposite direction.  Then four essays that are freeer with their anachronism: O’Dair, me, Tribble and Sutton, Smith.  A reasonably neat split.

That’s a fairly conventional way to parse early modern studies these days, and to some extent it’s accurate — or somewhat accurate, in the way of conventional wisdom.  But the most interesting face of eco-crit, it seems to me, is its potential to span the theory-history fissure.

Do these essays show how to do that spanning?  I’m not sure; the two halves of the Forum are somewhat distinct.  Perhaps Calhoun and Nardizzi come closest, though to be fair both Tribble/Sutton and Smith discuss methodologies more than engaging early modern sources.  Am I implicitly griping here about what I don’t do in my own short essay, i.e., push the blue and green deeper into 17c context?  I always want to be historicizing the ocean, rather than accepting Byronic visions of the eternal blue.

What I’d like for early modern eco-studies is a meaningful way to be both historicist and ecological, to explore the early modern and pre-modern roots of the human-nature dyad while speaking to our present experience of living within a disorderly ecosphere.  Making sense and pleasure out of disorder and discomfort is something that literature does well.  I also think making the historical past and experiential present communicate is essentially a literary project, one that’s worth tacking head-on.  I suppose that’s Sharon’s point too: we don’t want historicism and presentisim (or post-humanism, Latourian-ism, or whatever) to separate into private languages.  It’s more fun, and more productive, to wrestle these things together in public.

In the last paragraph of their introduction, Sullivan and Yates suggest that the essays in the Forum perform a “reprogramming of our reading practices and protocols for configuring textual evidence” while also, perhaps, failing to “escape the limits of…the ecological sublime.”  That seems right to me: we’re trying to do something new, but we’re also working, by necessity, with old materials, and we don’t want to lose touch with either side.  “What will it have meant to posit this conjunction?” the editors ask, pointing to the troublesome “and” between Shakespeare and ecology.  It’s a good question.

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Some Pictures from Passing Strange

Cross-posted from the St John’s English dept blog, here are some images from last Thursday’s Landscapes of the Passing Strange.   Many thanks to Regina Duthely for being pressed into service as photographer for this event!
About to start with Rosamond Purcell and Michael Witmore

 

The images in the book, and on the IWS walls, are reflections bounced off these bottles

 

Rosamond Purcell in front of the “war machine”
Michael Witmore examines “Twenty Shadows”
A portrait of the collaborators