IHR Blue Humanities: Steve Mentz, 'The Coast of Bohemia'
- Open to the public
Join us when Professor Steve Mentz visits the IHR for his Blue Humanities Lecture
Event Description: "If Bohemia still lies by the sea," writes the twentieth-century Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann, "I'll believe in the sea again." This blue humanities lecture about The Winter’s Tale dives into the poet’s gap between “lies by” and “I’ll believe.” The theatrical waterscape of Shakespeare’s fantastical coast of Bohemia brings together the disparate forces of imagination and material reality. Questions of stability and change dominate both the micro-structures of individual passages and the macro-structures of the play as a whole. In this mixed environment, the purpose of playing becomes survival in a fluid environment. To endure shipwreck and abandonment requires managing errancy over time. Error itself becomes both the play’s essential romance principle and its animating survival strategy. Shakespeare’s transformation of the “deserts of Bohemia” into a fertile seaside provides the watery substrate of the play’s utopian countermovement. A focus on the materiality of water–which the play represents in tears, in waves and in the sea–enables a reconsideration of Shakespeare’s understandings of Art and Nature, which turn out to depend upon dynamic concepts of both Error and Time. Emerging at length on what Bachmann terms a “doubtful sea,” The Winter’s Tale transforms blue humanities tropes such as shipwreck and alienation into representations of collective endurance.
Speaker's Bio: Steve Mentz is Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City. He has published widely in the blue humanities and environmental criticism, including the books Ocean (2020), Break Up the Anthropocene (2019), Shipwreck Modernity (2015), and At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean (2009). Works in progress include An Introduction to the Blue Humanities (forthcoming from Routledge) and the creative-critical poetry collection Sailing without Ahab (forthcoming from Fordham University Press). His poetry chapbook, Swim Poems, appeared from Ghostbird Press in 2022. Even in 2023, he still sometimes tweets @stevermentz and blogs at the Bookfish (www.stevementz.com).