Shakespearean Territories – taking shape?

While in Nigeria I was working on a book proposal for the Shakespearean Territories project, interspersed with re-reading some of the plays that were on my potential list to be included. It’s now looking something like this:

  1. Divided Territories: The Geo-politics of King Lear
  2. Corporeal Territories: The Political Bodies of Coriolanus
  3. Economic Territories: Farming the Realm in Richard II
  4. Contested Territories: Placing the Histories
  5. Colonial Territories: Pericles and The Tempest
  6. Vulnerable Territories: External Powers in Hamlet and Macbeth
  7. Measuring Territories: The Techniques of Rule
  8. Outside Territory: The Forest in As You Like It and Titus Andronicus

Chapters 1, 2, and parts of 3 exist in draft form already, and I’ve given them as talks in New York, Paris, Nottingham and Edinburgh. I have bits towards chapters 5 and 8 and lots of notes. My aim is to have a proposal ready to send to a publisher sometime this summer, with a manuscript by end of 2013. I’m looking at a fairly short book of c. 80,000 words inclusive.

The basic argument is that while Shakespeare only uses the words ‘territory’ and ‘territories’ rarely, the concept is not marginal to his work. A number of his plays are structured around related issues of exile, banishment, land politics, spatial division, contestation, conquest and succession. Shakespeare was writing at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century: a time when the modern conception of sovereign territory was emerging. He therefore helps us understand its variant aspects, tensions, ambiguities and limits. The plays are chosen because they help to exemplify different aspects of the question of territory – conceptually, historically, and politically. In doing so I hope to illustrate the multi-faceted nature of territory as word, concept and practice, and to shed light on the way we understand territory and territorial disputes today.

This entry was posted in Shakespearean Territories, Territory, William Shakespeare. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Shakespearean Territories – taking shape?

  1. Steve Mentz says:

    Looks fun! I wonder if there isn’t a slightly different attitude toward territorial sovereignty in the late plays — The Tempest, Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, Pericles, perhaps Two Noble Kinsmen. I agree with Pericles as a proto-colonial allegory, but I wonder about an implicit internationalism in Cymbeline and perhaps TNK also.

    But in any case I look forward to reading this book!

  2. stuartelden says:

    Thanks Steve – interesting thought. One of the things I know I need to be careful of is mixing up plays from different periods. Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen were not on my list of possible inclusions, so I’ll take another look. Much appreciated.

    • Steve Mentz says:

      It’s certainly possible, and possibly productive, to mix up plays from different periods, and besides our standard chronologies aren’t really all that reliable. But Cymbeline especially, with its Roman / Britain / Italian overlapping matrices, might be interesting from a territorial angle. There’s some good recent work on the transmission of Virgilian ideas of law and empire too: Heather James’s book *Shakespeare’s Troy* is as good a place to start as any. Not that you want to wade into the full sea of Shakespeare criticism, perhaps!

      • stuartelden says:

        Very useful. I will certainly go back to Cymbeline with this in mind. I’m going to read as much of the secondary literature as I’m able, and certainly will check the James out. Impossible to read it all, of course, but I intend to do what I can on the themes I’m exploring. Thanks!

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