THIS POST IS THE FOURTH IN A SERIES OF DAILY CONFERENCE RE-CAPS WRITTEN BY EARLY CAREER SCHOLARS ATTENDING THIS YEAR'S CONFERENCE.
By Andrew Bozio
Conferences are, among other things, ways of taking the temperature of a profession. They allow us to glimpse emerging methodologies and questions well before those modes of inquiry register in the medium of print. On the third day of this conference, Andrew Duxfield issued a powerful challenge to Marlovians, noting that our interest in the cartographic and the cosmographic dimensions of Marlowe’s plays hasn’t been met with a similar interest in the material stuff of the environment. Indeed, ecomaterialism hasn’t made much of an impact within Marlowe studies – or, at least, such was the case until yesterday’s provocative panel on Marlovian environments. In his paper, “‘Sooner shall the sea o’erwhelm my land’: Water in Edward II,” Duxfield offered a generative and capacious reading of the symbolic economy of the sea within Marlowe’s history play, showing how it reflects and refracts the relationships between and among Gaveston, Edward, and the barons. Chloe Preedy then turned our attention to another elemental force in her paper, “Blowing on the Wind: Marlowe’s Aerial Technologies and The Jew of Malta,” offering the latest installment of what has seemed, over the course of several conferences, to be an exceptionally promising project. And Goran Stanivukovic’s suggestion that we can link ecological matter—namely, the sea—to ecologies of affect and desire offered a strong conclusion to this afternoon session.
“Marlovian Environments” was well-positioned as a response to Kristen Poole’s keynote lecture, “Sixteenth-Century Exegetical Culture and Marlowe’s Use of Biblical Time,” albeit in ways that may seem idiosyncratic to some readers. Poole powerfully demonstrated that we have yet to acknowledge how thoroughly steeped early modern subjects were in the practice of hermeneutics. As sermons offered explications of particular biblical passages, they functioned as lessons in close reading and helped to generate what Poole called “a structural mode” of typological thinking. As Poole argued, typologies are far more polytemporal than the Victorians, who invented the term, imagined: typological shadows might function sequentially; they may overlap; or the shadow may reach back to inflect the very thing it shadows. The implications for Marlowe’s play are beguiling: what Poole calls “historical similes”—or moments in which characters figure themselves as acting like historical exemplars—contain traces of such typological thinking. I couldn’t help but wonder if such an argument might extend to the form of Tamburlaine—namely, its structural repetition, in which Cosroe prefigures Bajazath who, in turn, prefigures the Sultan of Egypt.
But it was Poole’s suggestion that Tamburlaine’s colored tents bear traces of the Book of Revelations that was on my mind in the later session. Eschatology has gained new currency within Anglo-American culture, in part because the suggestion that we have entered the Anthropocene —and, with it, the sixth extinction—seem to figure a new end of times. Might questions of ecology, then, have a place within Marlowe studies, both on their own terms and in tandem with questions about religious belief, race, gender, sexuality, and ability? Might we consider other ecologies, such as those of labor and power that shape collaboration and authorship? And might approaching these questions through Marlowe change the answers we have already reached through Shakespeare and others? In every case, I fervently hope so.
Andrew Bozio is assistant professor of English and associate chair of the Department of English at Skidmore College. He has just completed a monograph entitled Ecological Thinking in Early Modern English Drama.