Tag Archives: Apocalypse

Full Circle. 3 Dec.


House Keeping

Final Blog Post: If you have any WordPress/technical questions, post them in you final post, so if I can’t answer them in class, I can answer them in the comment section of your site when I read them next week.

“Eleven Principles of the Elements”

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Key Term Definition
Resourcism For Cohen, dominant model that guides how human relationship to animate and inanimate nonhuman world. Human as exceptional creative, living, active force that exploits and manufactures insensible, inert, matter into things: “We seek an elemental Ecocriticism that discovers in imaginative and critical texts a lush archive for thinking ecology anew. We believe attending to matter and writing against the reduction of world to commodity (resource, energy) is a powerful aid to activism” (4).
Assemblage Shakespeare, and his friends and influences, offer modern readers a glimpse of a road not taken. So instead of conceiving of human agency as unidirectional (subjects effect object and are never, int turn, effected because how could they be?), what if, like Empedocles and Margaret Cavendish, we imagine congregational models? So instead of resourcism and all its troubles, culture/nature has shape, is meaningful, and effects change in dense, accidental clusters of of human and nonhuman things across which agency is dispersed. Remember how Lavinia’s mangled body and Marcus’ response to her shows agency as cooperative, and not unilateral.
Elemental Ecocriticism Transhistorical; congregational alternative to resourcism; offers a counter narrative to crisis; and intimate.  Foundational idea, elements are active agents: “Because they are smaller than gods and larger than atoms–not theological or metaphysical, not only the unseen stuff of physics’ elegant equations earth, air, fire and water, alone and their promiscuous combinations, function within a humanly knowable scale while extending an irresistible invitation to inhuman relations” (6). Think Lear and the Storm, or the castaways and the tempest. 
“Storied Matter” Are the elements really outside forces? What are houses and intimate things made of, not to mention our own bodies? “Material Affinity unites the elemental cosmos and the little universe that is the human [body of state/body of man–consult every Shakespeare play ever], and intimacy rather than an invitation to dominance, an ingress for human knowing of world that would otherwise exceed. Strategic anthropomorphism is allied  with the elements, and its goal is to decenter the human from its accustomed universal midpoint” (11). 
Ethics of Care Elemental activity (floods, fires, or moss growing on a mailbox) happens b/c the elements chose out of desire for those things to happen: “Elements are finite: bounded and, in their conjoined state, quite mortal. But finitude does not entail compliance, does not mean that do not yearn extension (the force of love) or the breaking of confines in the hope of ardent fragments (strife)” (9). Seems either too childish/whimsical, or crazy, till we check back in with the ideas that open the essay–assemblage, unidirectional agency, or what Aliamo called Trans-Coporeality. If human and nonhuman things are all of a piece across which agency is dispersed then its not so strange to say that moss desires light or water longs to reach past its boundaries. Elements always-already inside.
So What? Instead of asking, “what steps should we take to avoid or prevent disasters…ask where we, as collectives, are going; what assembleges are being made; what futures are yet to be made in the twenty-first century?” (14).

Presenters: Angeline, Shamala, & Hannah P.

To help focus the Q&A, at the conclusion of the presentation please take five minutes and respond to the following questions:
  • 1. Briefly summarize the topic and/or arguments made by 2 of the presenters and list a few point of overlap.
  • 2. Draft one discussion question. 
  • 3. Locate at least one passage from Titus that was discussed in the presentation. OR locate a passage that you think will help presenters and the audience better understand claims made. Be prepared to cite the passage in discussion.


Presentations Day Two. 5 Nov.


Presentation 1 Recap

Student Topic 
Patrick In his presentation, Patrick directed our attention to the contest over truth that the play stages. First he defined truth through a nice explication of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: humans in general, like the few people chained in the cave, take mistake the shadows (phenomena) for the thing-in-itself (noumena). To show how the play engages with questions of truth & perception, he drew our attention to the exchange between Gaunt and Bolingbroke in 1.3. Gaunt advises Bolingbroke to “Suppose the singing birds musicians” (1.3.288). Bolingbroke replies, “O, who can hold a fire in his hand/By thinking on the frosty Caucauses?” (1.3.293-4). We’ve seen this contest in every play we’ve read so far this semester. It’s safe to say that Shakespeare was preoccupied with the question: where does truth come from or how is truth determined? Is the world outside of people what people say it is (or what authority says it is), or do I use my senses to observe and deduce the stuff outside? Response to this question determines eco/environmental work.
Hannah M. Hannah directed our attention to the fact that the play is written entirely in verse, which has a weird effect on characterization. For instance, how does the verse form inflect the exchange between the Gardener and the Servant in lines such as “Go thou and like an executioner/Cut off the heads of too-fast-growing sprays/that look to lofty in the commonwealth” (3.4.33-35). If truth is what I say it is does how I say it matter? Hannah argues that the elevated language allows the characters to say more, but also obfuscate their private intentions. When Richard is finally alone in 5.5.41-65, Hannah argues he “uses verse to keep time; hears his failure in the discord; left with only speech and no action; and he figures himself as a clock (which is a weird instance of blazon, like we saw in Taming of the Shrew, b/c he anatomizes/allegorizes himself.
Beau Beau talked about foreshadowing/omens: Gaunt’s speech that begins, “Methinks I am prophet new inspired” (2.1.31-69); sacral kingship, “The sacred king, the human embodiment of the dying and reviving vegetation god, was supposed to have originally been an individual chosen to rule for a time, but whose fate was to suffer as a sacrifice, to be offered back to the earth so that a new king could rule for a time in his stead” (“Sacred King” Wiki); and images of decay: Garden 3.4, ex: “wasteful King” (3.4.55). What sort of proof would confirm for the audience (that Shakespeare has set up as a jury) that Richard is magic and that, by extension, divine right of kings is a real thing?
Jeffrey Jeffrey drew out attention to ways the Richard II performs loyalty. He argued one of the fault lines in the play separates try loyalists from traitors. He drew our attention to the oaths of loyalty the characters express God through the king in 1.2 & that to disobey the king is to disobey God. He wondered, give the structures of obedience, why Richard is all but abandoned by the end of act 2. I wonder, how does the same power that authorizes Richard, or divine kingship in general, also undermine it? For instance, when Richard takes Bolingbroke’s inheritance, how does he negate the same processes that ensure his right to rule. Or as York explains, “Take Hereford’s rights away and take from time/His charters and his customary rights,/Let not tomorrow then ensue today,/Be not thyself–for how art though a king/But by fair sequence and succession?” (2.1.195-99)  

Presentation 2: Sun, Caroline, & Danny

Audience, prepare yourselves for the Q&A


Richard II, Act 4: The Deposition of the King

As we watch the deposition of Richard, please keep the following prompt in mind and be prepared to discuss your responses afterward:
If in Richard II Shakespeare puts absolute sovereignty on trial to be adjudicated by the audience that he has transformed into a jury, what sorts of appeals does the play make for and against sovereignty? Which position is more compelling and why? What is your final assessment?



Digital Edition Example (draft)


Below you’ll find the first draft of a Digital Edition that I wrote. Feel free to use it as a model for the blog post you have due on Thursday. I also revised the DE into a second draft called King Lear‘s Eco-Futurity.


From the division of the Kingdoms to the final “Never, never, never!” (24.303), King Lear seems totally sterile. Consider the infertility rings out in Lear’s refrain: “Nothing can come of nothing” (1.81 and 4.126); the way that the rosemary and pins Edgar “strikes” in his “bare arms” suggests nothing can grow in the earth (7.181-82); and the image of the failed graft with which Albany figures Gonoril’s “disposition” (16.32-36 Q1) as just three instances of King Lear‘s barren nature.

And yet, for all the “Never’s,” “Nothing’s,” and “O’s” (24.304), the play teems with animal and vegetable life. There is a veritable assemblage of foxes, horses, cats, adders, vultures, bears, crows, choughs, and all manner of dogs. Add to the menagerie of animals rosemary, samphire, and of course, “rank fumitory and furrow-weeds,/With burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,/Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow/In our sustaining corn” (18.3-5), and the play seems less a barren waste and more a seething aggregate of viability. Not only does the play stage vegetable excesses amid the total collapse of civilization, characters constantly attribute ruin to cataclysmic natural events. For instance, Gloucester attributes several crises to “These late eclipses in the sun and moon” (2.101-102), just as Kent credits “the stars/The stars above us” for their dire conditions. Despite the ruin, waste, and nihility with which the play engages its audience, I argue King Lear offers a model for sustainable futures. The prototype for human, nonhuman, and inhuman ecology the play provides is an especially useful resource for 21st century readers. Since we live after radical environmental change, i.e. humans effect the world now more than ever, we need to reconsider the future we have imagined for ourselves. If we look to our past, as Shakespeare looks to his, we can find ways to face our mistakes to develop a more capacious regard for forms of life.

Critical Responses

King Lear has been a regarded as an exemplary instance of the pastoral in English since its inception. In recent years the play has become a key text for Posthumanism. Two key examples of Posthumanist King Lear scholarship are Laurie Shannon’s “Poor, Bare, Forked: Animal Happiness and the Zoographic Critique of Humanity,” from her book, The Accommodated Animal: Cosmopolity in Shakespearean Locales and Andreas Hofele’s “‘I’ll see their trial first’: Law and Disorder in Lear’s Animal Kingdom,” from his book Stage, Stake, and Scaffold: Humans and Animals in Shakespeare’s Theater.

Though Shannon and Hofele both agree that King Lear engages the animal kingdom as much as human sovereignty, they make two different arguments. Shannon argues XXXXX.  Summarize and compare both authors. Then explain how a synthesis of their argument informs my edition.

Recent Performance History

Animals, vegetables, and minerals are important in two recent production of King Lear.

When John Lithgow played Lear in Central Park two summers ago, one commenter explained how a raccoon crossed the stage while Mr. Lithgow was off of it. The blog provided a record of all sorts of unexpected nonhuman interventions over the course of the production, as well as Mr. Lithgow’s delightful reflections on the production. XXXXX. Develop with citations XXXXX.

Consider also a recent production of the play in London in which the director cast one human and nine sheep. In Lear with Sheep, Develop with citations from page.  Summarize and compare both performances. Then explain how a synthesis of their argument informs my edition.

King Lear, Scene 17 (the text below is cut and paste and illegible. Will need to format using easy bootstrap short code plugin tools such as columns or a table. Also, no links or gloss yet)

Enter Kent and a Gentleman.
Kent. Why the King of Fraunce is so suddenly gone backe,
know you no reason.
Gent. Something he left imperfect in the state, which since his
2347.5comming forth is thought of, which imports to the Kingdome,
So much feare and danger that his personall returne was most re
quired and necessarie.
Kent. Who hath he left behind him, General.
Gent. The Marshall of France Monsier la Far.

2347.10Kent. Did your letters pierce the queene to any demonstratiõ

Gent. I say she tooke them, read them in my presence,
And now and then an ample teare trild downe
Her delicate cheeke, it seemed she was a queene ouer her passion,
Who most rebell-like, sought to be King ore her.
2347.15Kent. O then it moued her.
Gent. Not to a rage,patience and sorow streme,
Who should expresse her goodliest you haue seene,
Sun shine and raine at once, her smiles and teares,
Were like a better way those happie smilets,
2347.20That playd on her ripe lip seeme not to know,
What guests were in her eyes which parted thence,
As pearles from diamonds dropt in briefe,
Sorow would be a raritie most beloued,
If all could so become it.
2347.25Kent. Made she no verball question.
Gent. Faith once or twice she heau’d the name of father,
Pantinglyforth as if it prest her heart,
Cried sisters,sisters, shame of Ladies sisters:
Kent, father, sisters, what ith storme ith night,
2347.30Let pitie not be beleeft there she shooke,
The holy water from her heauenly eyes,
And clamour moystened her, then away she started,
To deale with griefe alone.
Kent. It is the stars,the stars aboue vs gouerne our conditions,
2347.35Else one selfe mate and make could not beget,
Such different issues, you spoke not with her since.
Gent. No.Kent. Was this before the King returnd.
Gent. No, since.
Kent. Well sir, the poore distressed Lear‘s ith towne,
2347.40Who some time in his better tune remembers,

What we are come about,and by no meanes will yeeld to see his

Gent. Why good sir?
Kent. A soueraigne shame so elbows him his own vnkindnes
That stript her from his benediction turnd her,
2347.45To forraine casualties gaue her deare rights,
To his dog-harted daughters, these things sting his mind,
So venomously that burning shame detaines him from Cordelia.
Gent. Alack poore Gentleman.
Kent. Of Albanies and Cornewals powers you heard not.
2347.50Gent. Tis so they are a foote.
Kent. Well sir, ile bring you to our maister Lear,
And leaue you to attend him some deere cause,
Will in concealement wrap me vp awhile,
When I am knowne aright you shall not greeue,
2347.55Lending me this acquaintance, I pray you go along with me.



RQ: King Lear, Scenes 16-24



Keep the following questions in mind as you read King Lear Scenes 9-15. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

How does Oswald’s reply to Gonoril mark a turn in the plot and/or in Lear’s fortunes (16.4-11)?

Why does Edmund have to “Decline” his head to Gonoril (16.21)?

What accounts for Albany’s change in perspective? Was he already more on Lear’s side than his wife’s?

How does Albany express his disdain for Gonoril’s life choices? What sorts of metaphors does he use?

According to Albany, what sorts of things make humanity monstrous?

How does Gonoril respond to Albany’s critique of her sovereignty? Which character makes the more persuasive argument and why?

What happens to Cornwall?

How does Cordelia respond to Kent’s letters?

Why does the King of France return home?

Who/what controls human fate according to Kent? How does his POV accord with his own life trajectory?

Why won’t Lear agree to see Cordelia?

How does Cordelia describe her father?

What sorts of treatments does the Doctor prescribe for Lear?

What request does Regan make of Oswald, why? And how does Oswald respond?

How does Edgar trick Gloucester? Why does he “trifle” with his father’s “despair” (20.31)? Is he successful?

What does Edgar’s description of the vista at the Dover cliffs (20.11-23) reveal about his perspective? What does the speech reveal about perspective in general?

How is Scene 20 a miniature version of the whole play?

How does Edgar describe his father’s fall? What imagery does he use to figure the fall?

Why does Edgar change character again?

When Lear reenters at 20.80, we haven’t seen him since the end of Scene 13. How has changed? What sorts of linguistic markers suggest his transformation?

In what does Lear suggest that Gloucester might, “behold the great image of authority” (20.152)?

Where does Lear think the [First] Gentleman is taking him and how does he react?

Why does Edgar lie to his dad for a second time about who he is and where he comes from? In other words, why doesn’t Edgar reveal his real identity to Gloucester?

How does Oswald react to Gloucester when he meets he and Edgar on the road? How does Edgar react?

What requests does Oswald make of Edgar just before he dies?

What does Gonoril request Edmund do in the letter that Edgar intercepts?

How does Edgar respond? How does does Gloucester?

Why doesn’t Ken change out of his disguise in Scene 21 even though Cordelia knows who he is?

How do you respond to Cordelia’s questions 21.38-34?

How do the doctor and Cordelia attempt to cure Lear? Are they successful, why/why not?

How does Lear respond to his reunion with Cordelia? Does it break your heart?

How does Edmund deal with his two girlfriends problem?

Compare the processions with which Scene 23 opens to the procession in Scene 1, and compare the two sets of Father/Child in the opening to Scene 23.

What’s Lear’s plan for life in prison with Cordelia (24.7-19)?




Judgement. 15 Oct.



Nature in the abstract:
The open ended discussion of what nature means was especially productive last week. You all provided some very interesting & useful definitions that include, but are not limited to, the following paraphrases: people convert (manufacture) nature into culture; nature both precedes and exceeds culture; nature is a word that denotes rocks, plants, animals, humans, and the universe; human nature is a synonym for a force that drives people from the inside despite their best efforts; humans classify nature into hierarchies; nature represents the limits of human thought (i.e. dumb as a box of rocks); nature is insensible to human classification; and nature functions as a benchmark for determining value and/or has inherent value.

Nature in King Lear
  • Edmund’s soliloquy (2.1-21): He gives us nature as an abstract noun (anthropomorphism); state of nature that precedes (&exceeds?) culture, and as such can be made to function as an arbiter of value (i.e. bastards are better than legitimate babies); “natural ties of human feeling” (ft. nt. 1 p.116); natural, denoting “related to blood.”
  • “Book of Nature” and/or Omens: “An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of the stars!” (1.2.119-20).
  • Edgar’s transformation (7.166-85): Does Edgar decide to turn from culture to nature? Is his transformation inevitable, or does he choose to put on a disguise or costume? Also, & according to the play, can humans ever be naked? Is nature something a man can perform?
  • Nature as vitality: Lear telling Gloucester and Kent, “We are not ourselves/When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind/To suffer with the body” (7.268-70).
  • Unnatural: Lear’s criticisms of his daughters: “O, Regan she hath tied/Sharp-toothed unkindness like a vulture here” (7.294-5) & “Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue/Most serpent-like upon the very heart” (7.317-18), to name just a two of many, many instances.

Part I. Judgement and Peter Brook’s & Paul Scofield King Lear (1971)

Keep the following in mind while we watch the heath scene from Brook’s Lear:
  • What interpretive choices does Brook make? Are they successful? Why or why not? 
  • What difference does it make to any of the action that follows that the decision at the center of the play is ambiguous? Also, after Lear who gets to choose?

Part II. Rhetorical Analysis of the Introduction

Take ten minutes to respond to the following and be prepared to cite specifics from Stanley Well’s introduction. Pay specific attention to pages 1-3 & pages
What sorts of arguments does Stanley Wells make in his Introduction? Could you read the play differently? 
What sorts of subheadings and information does the Introduction contain?
What’s unusual about the Wells edition of King Lear? How does he solve textual problems and why?
How do the Introduction and the footnotes in the text work together to produce a theory of the play?

Assignment Overview

Digital Edition