Call for Papers: Shakespeare and Natural History
As a part of the Shakespeare 450 conference in Paris from April 21 to 27, 2014, this panel seeks to extend our understanding of how Shakespeare’s time was teeming with the new practice that would come to be known as natural history. Today, 450 years after Shakespeare’s birth, we are the beneficiaries of more than just the poetry of the era. Shakespeare’s recognition of and interaction with the community of natural historians demonstrates the importance he and others of his time placed on this new field. At the same time we honor the legacy of his literary engagement, so too can we consider the impact that his generation had on the imminent scientific revolution and the interaction among science, literature and society that would follow.
For this panel, I am seeking a multidisciplinary group of Shakespeare scholars, Renaissance literature experts, historians of science, and classicists to engage the theme of Shakespeare and science along broad lines. For instance:
1. What echoes or foreshadowings of the new natural history are found in Shakespeare’s work? What classical or contemporary scientific texts are particularly important for Shakespeare scholars? Which plays, poems, or even characters lead themselves to our greater understanding of the discipline?
2. How do Shakespeare’s gestures toward a natural history differ from the way the practice develops? In particular, what does the way he engaged with sources tell us about the practitioners of and assumptions about early modern science? To what extent is Shakespeare supporting this new discipline? Is it fair to call Shakespeare a natural historian? A popularizer of science?
3. In what way do the communities that Shakespeare depicts reflect the mobility exploited by natural historians or provide contrasting examples from earlier times? Can a better knowledge of particular fields, such Renaissance findings in botany/zoology, anatomy/medicine/pharmacology, astronomy/alchemy, or geology/geography/cartography, provide us with a richer understanding of Shakespeare’s work? Which key figures or texts from these disciplines should be as well known as Plutarch’s Lives or Holinshed’s Chronicles to Shakespeare scholars?
4. How can the evidence of natural history in Shakespeare help us better understand the interaction between science and literature in general? Does it offer us evidence of the social construction of scientific knowledge?
Proposals for papers that address these or related topics are welcome. Proposers are encouraged to review the relevant articles in the Winter and Spring 2009 issue of South Central Review, in addition to the bibliographic notes about the contributors in Carla Mazzio’s editorial introduction to the special edition, before submitting. Send name, email, affiliation, abstract (250 words) and title of your contribution with a brief CV to Chris Leslie by email (email@example.com) by August 1, 2013. Participants in this panel will precirculate draft papers with each other by April 7, 2014 to ensure a lively discussion at the conference.
This conference is organized by The Société française Shakespeare and will take place in a variety of venues in the center of Paris. For more information visit the Shakespeare Anniversary website: http://www.shakespeareanniversary.org/?-Shakespeare-450