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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Shakespeare's Ecologies

Instructor(s): Andrew Bozio, English

Shakespeare wrote at the dawn of what scientists call the Anthropocene, the geological epoch in which human activity radically altered the earth’s ecologies. Thanks to our reshaping of the earth’s surface and to our transformation of the atmosphere, our presence on this planet will be visible in the fossil record long after we’ve disappeared. What can literature tell us about the history of environmental upheaval and our relationship to it? In this course, we will study Shakespeare’s representation of forests, islands, and oceans as a way of rethinking the relationship between culture and the natural world. What ecological crises were unfolding at the dawn of the Anthropocene, and how does Shakespeare respond to those crises in such plays as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, and Macbeth? Furthermore, as we adapt Shakespeare’s plays for the twenty-first century, what can these works tell us about our own assumptions regarding sustainability and environmental decay? To answer these questions, we will study different disciplinary perspectives – ranging from history and philosophy to cognitive science – on the nature of the environment, asking how these disciplines can help us to rethink Shakespeare’s ecologies.


Course Offered: