Colloquium by Rachel Bryant

Friday, October 19th, 3:30pm - Tilley Hall Room 5

Towards the Desertion of Sycorax’s Island: Challenging the Colonial Contract


During the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, entire communities of fledgling colonists were routinely nursed to stability in the Americas by hospitable Indigenous nations who believed, as the Abenaki historian Lisa Brooks has explained, that "sharing space meant sharing resources." This principle of cooperation was rarely understood or reciprocated by the Europeans – who instead exploited it as the basis of their parasitic power structures. This paper considers how emerging ecological readings of Shakespeare's plays emphasize elements of early modern thought that oppose paradigms of Western human exceptionalism. In this context, I argue that The Tempest reflects a deep – and characteristically Shakespearean – anxiety about the various ways in which European explorers and colonists compulsively treated "new world" lands and populations as available resources to be controlled, exploited, and sold at market.