Munroe – ENGL 4050

ENGL 4050/5050: Shakespeare and Ecofeminism

Professor Jennifer Munroe

Spring 2015

Mon/Wed 2-3:15 (Fretwell 223)

Office Hours: Wednesday 1-2pm and by appt

Office: Fretwell 260C

Office Phone: 7-0368 (please feel free to leave a message on my phone, but an email will     expedite my reply, since I’m not on campus every day)



Course Description:

This course combines a study of Shakespeare’s writings with a theorizing of the relationship between the human and nonhuman natural world; and it does so with a particular eye to concerns about gender equity and social justice. With a focus on material practice, where culture and “nature” meet, this course considers how we might understand Shakespeare (and his writing) as immersed in an environment where men, women, animals, and plants lived necessarily in relations that were at once symbiotic and in tension. And it demonstrates how this lived experience was not simply understood by way of differences between the human and nonhuman but was also shaped by gender difference. Rooted in material practices in early modern England, such as recipe-making, medicine, and gardening, this course will consider how ecofeminist theory helps us deconstruct such categories related to women and “nature” as the “domestic,” the “unnatural,” and the “inanimate.” Our section of “Shakespeare and Ecofeminism” here at UNCC will be in dialogue with the same course (same syllabus) at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in spring 2015; as such, we will collaborate on a course blog and transcriptions of an early modern manuscript recipe book with students at UCCS such that our course experience will extend beyond the bounds of our classroom.


This class is, at its core, an experiment, our classroom and the spaces we occupy outside it a laboratory for exploring ideas and creating new knowledge. We must challenge what we think we know in order to approach situations, people, and texts with fresh perspectives. Being in this class means that you make yourself vulnerable to the complexity of problems, take risks and work together to consider multiple perspectives with sensitivity that result not in the answer but rather informed and likely conflicting positions; we will encounter collaboratively and with the idea that both problems and their solutions are perpetually in flux. To do so is to innovate. We cannot know at the outset what the result of this experiment will be, but I am proud to be part of it with you this semester.


**As this course is experimental in nature, I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus and specific assignments (with reasonable notice) if/when I decide that it will be in the best interest of our exploration to modify our approach and/or readings.

Weeks 1-2: Introductions

1/7:     Intro to course


1/12:   Reading:          Soper, “Nature and ‘Nature’”

Gaard and Murphy, “Introduction”

Sturgeon, “Introduction”

Due:                N/A

1/14:   Reading:          Plumwood, “Nature in the Active Voice”:

Alaimo, “Introduction” from Undomesticated Ground

Due:                N/A


Weeks 3-7: The Undomesticated

1/19:   No Classes (MLK Day)

1/21:   Reading:          View the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor Taming of the Shrew on

your own outside of class and be ready to discuss it.

Rackin, from Shakespeare and Women.

Book proposal for Shakespeare and Ecofeminist Theory (Laroche and


Due:                N/A


1/26:   Reading:          A Midsummer Night’s Dream

                                    Other reading/s TBA

Due:                N/A

1/28:   Reading:          A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Due:                N/A


2/2:     Reading:          A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Due:                Close Reading on AMND Due

2/4:     Reading:          Transcription: prepare by looking at the Cambridge tutorial on

paleography: https://

            Due:                Complete Lesson 2 (and transcribe “La Corona” and “Extasie” by

John Donne) in “Course Lessons” to hand in at the beginning of class

Wellcome link to the recipe book by “Mrs. Corlyon”:

(scroll down page to the “View this recipe book” link)


2/9:     Reading:          Transcription (in class)           

Due:                N/A

2/11:   Reading:          Titus Andronicus

Due:                N/A


2/16:   Reading:          Titus Andronicus

Feerick, “Botanical Shakespeares”

Due:                Presentation group 1

2/18:   Reading:          Titus Andronicus

                                    Other reading/s TBA              

Due:                Close Reading on TA Due

Presentation group 2


Weeks 8-11: The Supernatural

2/23:   Reading:          All’s Well that Ends Well

                                    Merchant, from The Death of Nature

                                    Other reading/s TBA

            Due:               Presentation group 3

2/25:   Reading:          All’s Well that Ends Well

            Due:                Presentation group 4

Nature Journal #1 Due


3/2:     No Classes (Spring Break)

3/4:     No Classes (Spring Break)


3/9:     Reading:          All’s Well that Ends Well

Due:                Close reading on AWTEW Due

                                    Presentation group 5

3/11: Reading:          Macbeth

Due:                N/A

3/12:   Blog due on blog site by 5pm




3/16:   Reading:          Macbeth

                                    Other reading/s TBA

Due:                Presentation group 6

3/18:   Reading:          Macbeth (a member of the Actors From the London Stage will visit

our class)

            Due:                Close reading on Macbeth Due

Presentation group 7


Weeks 12-15: The Inanimate

3/23:   Reading:          Discuss Final Paper Assignment

Due:                Presentation group 8

3/25:   Reading:          Discuss topics and research

Due:                Presentation group 9


3/31:   No Class (I’ll be away for research at the Huntington Library in Pasadena,

CA and will have slower-than-usual access to email)

            Abstracts due on Moodle by 5pm

4/1:     No Class (I’ll be at the Shakespeare Association of America Conference in     Vancouver, CA and will have slower-than-usual access to email.


4/6:     Reading:          Chen, “Animating Animacy”

Bennett, from “Vibrant Matter”

Due:                Presentation Group 10


4/8:     Abstracts discussion (have read and be ready to discuss everyone’s abstracts)


4/13:   Reading:          The Winter’s Tale

Duckert, “Exit, Pursued by a Polar Bear (More to Follow),” Upstart

(6/24/13):  pursued-by-a-polar-bear/exit-pursued-by-a-polar-bear.xhtml

Munroe, “It’s all about the gillyvors”

Due:                N/A

4/15:   Reading:          The Winter’s Tale

            Due:                Presentation Group 11


Weeks 16-17: Coming Together

4/20:   Reading:          The Winter’s Tale

            Due:                Close Reading on WT Due

Presentation Group 12 (if needed)

4/22:   Sharing work

Papers Due


4/27:   Class debrief

Due:                Nature Journal #2 Due

EEBO OR Transcription Due




Participation                            100pts

Close reading                           100pts

Blog                                         100pts

Presentation                            100pts

EEBO OR Transcription         100pts

Nature journal                         100pts

Final Paper                              400pts



Course Assignments:


Attendance and Participation (100pts):

It may go without saying, but I’ll say it: you are expected to attend class (with few-to-no absences) and participate in the conversation we have about our readings. Coming to class prepared to participate means that you have read ALL of the material assigned for that class period AND bring the readings (and any other written assignments) with you to have on hand. You will engage with the readings and each other in conversation as we work together through difficult and complex questions. If you arrive unprepared, you may be asked to leave, as you will demonstrate that you are not equipped to be an active member of our class community. While I appreciate the “green” impulse of bringing a laptop to class with your readings or for notetaking, you will NOT be permitted to use electronics (laptop or phones, etc) for these purposes unless you can document a compelling reason for me to make an exception. My experience is that electronic devices prove more distracting than productive; and because you will want to engage directly with our readings, you should print and have them available to make handwritten annotations during our discussion so that you may reflect on them further after each class and as you prepare for your final paper. Your participation grade for the semester will include your class preparedness and willingness to work with each other through readings in a proactive way.


Close Reading (1-2 double-spaced pages; 100pts):

Choose an 8–12 line section of one of the plays in our reading that includes a reference to a thing of nature. In 1–2 pages (double-spaced), perform a close reading of this passage (i.e., unpack the complex meanings for your reader). A close reading is not a paraphrase, not a re-statement of the literal meaning of work, although there is a place for the literal meaning in this assignment.


Begin your essay with a SHORT paragraph IN YOUR OWN WORDS that gives the literal meaning of the lines. Now, in 2–4 longer paragraphs explore how the DETAILS of the lines either elaborate on or undermine that literal meaning. Your thesis for this assignment will be about this elaboration or subversion of literal meaning. In exploring the details of the poem, begin by asking yourself about the structure, imagery, diction, sounds, allusiveness, and elusiveness of the passage. You might go to the OED online and look up a word. Is its Renaissance meaning unexpected? You may also look at (which we will discuss in class) to compare how the word you identify is used elsewhere in Shakespeare. Your close reading will be due when we discuss the play you choose as your focus. These close readings will allow you to dig deeper into the language of the plays as well as inform our class discussion for each play.


Nature Journal (100pts total; collected twice during semester):

We know two things about William Shakespeare: he grew up in a small town by a river and for his adult life he lived in one of the fastest growing cities in Europe—London. This assignment asks us to be aware of our living environment wherever we are. At least once a week go for a half-hour walk/sit-down and NOTICE things. Take pictures, whether with a camera or with words. Hear birds? What do they SOUND like? How many DIFFERENT birds do you hear? What do you see and smell? How does the air feel on your skin? Describe. Engage. Once a month, try to get to a place that has a different environment. If you live in the city, get out of its bounds. If out of the city, vice versa. How does this change your relationship to the environment? Are you seeing more, or less?


After your walk in the woods/down the street or sit in your back yard/park write a hundred word account of what you learned by being with your living environment. How many things/names/features do you know and how often do you see them? For the things you don’t know, why don’t you know them? I will collect these journals twice during the semester. Begin each entry with the date that you wrote it.


Blog: “Our local environments” blog (approx. 300 words; 100pts):

For this blog, you will create a post once during the semester (by March 12) that reflects what you discover after researching one of the following topics related to “our local environments” here in North Carolina. You will research a specific aspect of one of the topics below as it relates in particular to race, class, and/or gender; and your research should include how the things related to your topic are resourced and used.


Domestic Meat/Game (deer)




Drinking Water/Rivers

Heating source/Lighting source





Furniture/ Bedding


The blog is set up on; the website is:


You will research and blog (approx. 300 words) on the blog site. In addition to posting a blog, you will be expected to engage in conversation with others’ posts as well so that we think of the blog not as a product presented but instead an ongoing dialogue about an issue.


Presentation (10-15 min, 100pts):

You will work with a partner on a presentation that chooses a specific aspect of the topic you do for the blog. For example, if you choose “vegetables” for the blog, you would narrow the topic perhaps to a type of vegetable (product) or kitchen gardens (process/product). Your job will be to present how the early moderns understood the thing you choose as well as identify instances of its usage in Shakespeare. You will also need to place that Shakespearean usage in the context of other writers from the period.


EEBO Assignment (100pts):

For this assignment, For this assignment you will need to access the Early English Books Online (EEBO) database from the Atkins Library website. You will need to do the following things:


  1. Select a topic (and I can help you narrow a topic if you wish) based on something that interested you from our readings this semester, something you wanted to know more about as it related to early modern history/culture.
  2. Go to the EEBO database and do a “Keyword” search for that topic, which will bring up a list of texts that address that topic (sometimes more directly than others). You will want to narrow your date range (one of the options on the search page) such that you search for a 50-100-yr (approximately) period only.
  3. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the general list of texts that come up under that topic.
  4. As you familiarize yourself, you should take notes about how they reflect a general conversation about this topic during the period you’re searching. To do this, you will need to examine not just the titles but also their content, at least in a cursory fashion.
  5. Narrow yourself now to 5-10 texts that you think are characteristic of the general conversation you see, and in approximately 1-2 single-spaced pages, you will need to detail what that conversation is and cite these particular texts as examples (and HOW they contribute specifically, which means you will need to have quotes and examples from them).
  6. Now focus on 1-2 texts from that list (depending on length) that you will read more in detail. Once you are familiar with their argument more in detail, you will need to do the following:
  7. explain the argument of that text and how it relates to the general conversation
  8. connect that text and its argument to at least 1 literary text we’ve read in class together this semester.

You will need to do all of this (a and b from #6) in approximately 2 single-spaced pages (you may go over if you need more space, though).


This assignment is due at the end of the semester, or at least BY April 27 (our last day of class) at the beginning of class. If you do not submit this assignment that day you will receive a ZERO grade. No exceptions. If you finish this assignment early, you are more than welcome to turn it in early.


Transcription Assignment (100pts):

If you would like to continue with transcription work, you may elect to do an additional transcription assignment INSTEAD of the EEBO Assignment. For the Transcription Assignment, you will complete a transcription of ONE FULL FOLIO page of the manuscript we have been working on in class (the Corlyon ms) using the DROMIO software through the Folger Shakespeare Library website (again, what we have been doing in class). IN ADDITION to the transcription, you will produce a separate Word document (1-2 singlespaced pages) that results from your having researched the ailment, ingredients, process, etc of the recipe/s you transcribed; you will need to learn more, in other words, about the content of the transcribed recipe. After you do this research, your Word document will detail what you see as the implications of what you found: 1) what does the ailment and instructions to cure/abate it suggest about early modern life? 2) what do the list of ingredients, process, etc suggest about the knowledge that women had in household medicine? 3) what do these suggest about the relationship between women and the nonhuman world more broadly?


This assignment is due at the end of the semester, or at least BY April 27 (our last day of class) at the beginning of class. If you do not submit this assignment that day you will receive a ZERO grade. No exceptions. If you finish this assignment early, you are more than welcome to turn it in early.


Final Essay (400pts):

This assignment asks for a synthesis of the different kinds of tasks you’ve undertaken this term. In your final 10–15 page essay (2000–3000 words), you will make an argument that analyzes the significance of an aspect of the human/nonhuman relationship in one of Shakespeare’s plays from an ecofeminist perspective–that is, that combines a close reading of Shakespeare’s writing with a “reading” of the play that considers how “nature” works within it. This may mean that you think the play ultimately reifies some of what we discuss as (at least potentially) damaging alliances between nature and race, class, and/or gender; but it may mean that you think the play pushes back against such alliances and perhaps even offers new ones in their place.


The purpose of this assignment is for you to engage with the language of Shakespeare, considering its historical specificities and those of early modern conceptions of “nature” even as you use the work you do on environmental justice issues related to our own time and your journals to inform how you approach these questions of Shakespeare.




Academic Honesty:

I expect that the work you do in this class will represent your ideas, not an importation of the work of others. Refer to the university code for academic integrity if you have questions about what constitutes a violation, or you can ask me; and please know that I will pursue any violation I discover to the full extent that the code allows.



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