A picture of me at Jones Beach last May, taken at our last seminar by my student Christianne Cain.
A good place for cold-water swimming.
Aug 21 – 28, 2010
A compelling & poetic re-take on The Tempest in a Caribbean setting by Marina Warner. A first-contact narrative portraying the origins of the Sycorax-Caliban-Ariel family broken by the arrival of Kit Everard from England in 1609, framed by two different sections about the modern Everards: Ant, the patriarch & master of the Game at Flinders; Kit, his uncertain son; Miranda, Ant’s grand-daughter; and Xanthe, the patriarch’s late-arriving daughter, who displaces both Kit & Miranda from the family succession. The two girls, Miranda & Xanthe, compete for the role of chosen daughter just as the two cousins in Sacred Hunger struggle to be Ferdinand.
Some nice writing about the sea and Shakespeare: “But for Xanthe Everard this was the final transformation: a pearl of rare size and beauty, she had become incapable of further motion in mind or body; she had given her first and last cry for the love that most people crave all their lifelong days” (376). Sounds a bit like Garcia-Marquez, I guess.
A very good novel about slavery by way of *The Tempest*. The main plot concerns the legacy of the merchant William Kemp, who invests in a slave ship in an attempt to save his sagging fortunes. (His son, who chooses sugar, gets better results.)
But the key tension operates between the son, Erasmus Kemp, and the nephew Matthew Paris. Kemp wants the good mercantile life; Paris, fleeing from the death of his wife and child while he was imprisoned for publishing heretical (proto-Darwinian) tracts, wants something more radical.
From a Shakespearean point of view, they both want to be Ferdinand: the heir & chosen suitor. Kemp even plays Ferdinand in a failed production of *The Enchanted Island* opposite a wealthy merchant’s daughter early in the novel. But it’s Paris’s multi-racial world, on the slave ship, in Africa, and in Florida, that redefine Prospero’s magic isle.
No class tonight, everyone. Please post about your research topic on the SJC message board, by email, or in a comment to this blog.
Have fun on today’s snow day. Just a reminder that you need to have a one-page paper proposal (less formal than a real precis or abstract) to give me tomorrow night in class. You should be prepared to talk about it briefly. Some more details are in my previous post.
Btw, I give the Tfana *Measure* a hearty thumbs up, if you’re looking for a little Shakespeare in the coming weeks. I think they do an “under 25” special price. www.tfana.org
Looking at our syllabus, I see you also have a one-page “provisional topic” due next week. What I’m looking for here is an early stage of pre-writing, in which you choose an area of inquiry, a primary text or set of texts, and make some early gestures toward a critical methodology.
To be more specific, I’d like each “topic” to include the following things:
1. A draft title (it should be creative and catchy as well as descriptive & informative)
2. A 2-3 sentence summary of the area of inquiry: what sorts of questions are you asking/hoping to answer?
3. Primary texts: at least one, no more than 3, with some suggestion about what features you’ll discuss (ie, not just *The Lusiads*, but the Adamastor episode (for a paper on post-colonialism or imperialism), or the Island ofLove (for a paper on sexuality)…
4. Methodology: You can keep this fairly broad at this stage, and you should follow the project’s intellectual lead rather than shoehorning material into a pre-fab critical frame — but as we all should know by now, not having a methodology is never a good idea. (Or even possible.)
5. Secondary texts: You don’t have to have read these yet, but it’s a good idea to get started with some possibilities. I’ll make some suggestions, and also point you toward other things.
You should fit all this on one side of one page, and be prepared to talk (very briefly) about it in class.
Next week’s reading is Ulrich Kinzel’s great article on maritime orientation in the early modern period, which I first read maybe 4 years ago but to which I keep coming back. He does a decent close reading of *Merchant of Vencie*, esp the opening exchanges, but I’d like to have us spend some time thinking about the play of identities in *Comedy of Errors* in Kinzel’s oceanic terms.
But the other thing we should consider is that *Errors* is Mediterranean play, located specifically in the eastern Med, which in Shakespeare’s day was under Turkish control. Kinzel’s brave new vistas (and mine, really) are on the boundless deeps. Let’s talk about those differences too.
I’d also like to see you guys posting some comments on this blog.
Thinking about last week’s class & the very detailed, section-by-section oral report makes me want to make a suggestion: as graduate students, you should read a little more self-interestedly. The idea isn’t necessarily to record or remember everything a given author writes (even if the author is your professor). The idea is to find things you can use in your own work.
To make this suggestion a little more concrete, I’ll ask all future presenters (starting with Rich next week, on Josiah Blackmore) to focus less on summarizing facts or even analyses and more on the big picture. That means three things: 1) methodologies (ie, how does the author approach his or her material, what sorts of questions get asked and answered), 2) conclusions (ie, what’s the next step that the book asks to be taken?), and 3) bibliography (what great new stuff can you find through this book?).
The fastest way to find these things is to look first in the introduction (esp for methodology), second in the conclusion (for the next possible step), and third in the notes. (Grad students often read back to front, or up from the small print on the bottom of the page.) Not to pile on Christianne, but she didn’t talk very much about either of those parts of my book — and for grad students those are usually the most important parts.
To clarify quickly in regard to my book, here’s what I mean
1. Methodology: As I show in the short intro (and also in the article), I’m interested in engaging and combining ecological studies, post-colonial studies, global studies, and technology studies. For graduate students who might be interested in one (or more) of those, that’s the most important gambit of my book. (You have to decide for yourselves if I pull off that combo.)
2. Conclusions: I emphasize a critical stance with regard to certain kinds of ecocrit (in the conclusion) and I also want to correct the tendency I see in both New Historicist first contact narratives and “Atlantic History” of rushing over the sea to focus only on the New World. Again, you can assess the results as you like — but it’s worth recognizing what the project tries to do.
3. Bibliography: All the books and articles for this class are in the book’s biblio (plus lost of others), and I characterize them variously as “the new thallossology” (a borrowed term), “blue cultural studies,” and “the new maritime humanities.”
I don’t want to oversell my own book (though I hope you like it), but I do want to tweak the way that you all read. Graduate students aren’t in it for the details of the readings or even the pleasures of the texts so much as for the intellectual structures that they can use.
See you on Thursday.