Shakespearean Territories – forthcoming with University of Chicago Press in Fall 2018

I am delighted to announce that my book Shakespearean Territories will be published by University of Chicago Press in Fall 2018. I received final approval yesterday, and the book is now in production. I published The Birth of Territory with the press in 2013, and it’s great to be working with them again.

The book reads a number of Shakespeare’s plays to examine different aspects of the question of territory – conceptually, historically, and politically. The 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. In using these plays the aim is 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.

In my previous work on territory, I’ve tried to broaden the way we think about the concept and practice, suggesting different registers for examining it. We can find political and geographical themes in many of Shakespeare’s works, but different plays put an emphasis on themes such as the strategic, the economic, the legal, and technical. Yet Shakespeare is not read just to provide examples of themes I had previously identified. His plays open up new ways of thinking about these questions, providing depth and illustration of these themes at a significant historical juncture. Even more significantly, Shakespeare’s plays highlight aspects which my own previous work insufficiently acknowledged – the colonial, the geophysical and the corporeal. These crucial themes have been highlighted in some critical engagement with my work, and I use Shakespeare to push me further in developing this account of the contested and complicated concept and practice of territory.

Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction: Shakespearean Territories

  1. Divided Territory: The Geo-politics of King Lear
  2. Vulnerable Territories: Regional Geopolitics in Hamlet and Macbeth
  3. The Territories: Majesty and Possession in King John
  4. Economic Territories: Laws, Economies, Agriculture and Banishment in Richard II
  5. Legal Territories: Conquest and Contest in Henry V and Edward III
  6. Colonial Territories: From The Tempest to the Eastern Mediterranean
  7. Measuring Territories: The Techniques of Rule
  8. Corporeal Territories: The Political Bodies of Coriolanus
  9. Outside Territory: The Forest in Titus Andronicus and As You Like It

Coda: Beyond Pale Territories

The story of how this book came to be written might be of interest. Just less than seven and a half years ago, while attending the AAG meeting in Washington DC, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted. Like many people, I was unable to fly back to the UK for several days. I ended up staying in Vienna, Virginia, near the Dulles airport, for several days while I waited for a chance to get home. I had hoped to hire a bike, but couldn’t find a place to do so, and I didn’t have my driving licence with me, so apart from some long walks, ended up working much of the time. I had with me relatively few books, but these included the Arden third series edition of King Lear, along with a laptop. I’d been working on a short section on King Lear for The Birth of Territory, but over these several days the section expanded far beyond what would fit in that book. I cut it right back for the book, but still had some material I thought was worth publishing. I presented this work at a conference in New York in 2012, on the invitation of Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz, and this led to it being published in Law and Literature. At the conference I was asked about how the argument related to other of Shakespeare’s plays. I had already begun a piece on Coriolanus, and was thinking about Richard II. This was the germ of the book Shakespearean Territories.

Over the next several years, I worked on Shakespeare in parallel with the writing on Foucault. I presented parts of the work to conferences and department seminars, mainly in the UK, but also in the USA, Canada, Australia and France. I generally began each talk with a broad overview of my work on territory, and the key themes of this work, but then spoke on a different play whenever possible. I therefore built up quite a lot of material around these themes. While at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies in 2015-16 I returned to all this writing, and began to shape it more carefully into chapters and a working manuscript. I finished a complete draft in September 2016, just before term began. I deliberately put it to one side, and didn’t look at it again until the New Year. I felt this manuscript needed to be read with fresh eyes. I was pleasantly surprised when I did return to it, reworked it where I thought necessary, and submitted it to review in February.

Two very thoughtful and supportive referees wrote reports, and I tried to address all their concerns and suggestions fully. I made revisions to the text in the first part of the summer. It went back to one reader, who had just a couple of minor suggestions for final work. The book is, I think, stronger for their interventions. It gained a little length in revision, and now comes in just a few words over 125,000. It’s a substantial, but not I think unwieldy, book.

The book is intended to be both a book about Shakespeare for a geography and territory audience; and a book about territory for a Shakespeare audience. There is a bit more about the book, along with links to audio recordings of some lectures, here.

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One Response to Shakespearean Territories – forthcoming with University of Chicago Press in Fall 2018

  1. Pingback: The Early Foucault Update 12: A writing/cycling retreat and some time in London’s libraries | Progressive Geographies

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