ESRA 2019 will have a special focus on processes of remapping, with consequences for early modern discourses on borders, nations, territories, the world. It will prompt discussions of the place held by such processes in the culture of the period, but it will also foreground the various ways in which they are relevant for current preoccupations and concerns.
As we know, early modern European geography was shattered by a series of disruptive events which resulted not just in a remapping of borders, nations, and world, but had a bearing in problematizing the very notion of space and the place human beings held in a changing order of the universe. Discoveries of new lands and new perimeters, originating from a thirst for knowledge, political ambition, wars, not to mention wars of religion and the reshuffled and transversal geographies designed by faith in post-Reformation Europe, were such as to redefine the sense of belonging, physically as well as mentally, and spiritually.
Questions related to this topic are at the core of Shakespeare’s figurations of multifaceted physical and mental landscapes. And the geographical turn of the past few decades has made us aware of the wide range of thematic, ideological, and theoretical issues related to it.
Our European contemporary geography, constantly redefined by new walls as well as the trespassing movement of massive flows of migrant human beings, invites us to interrogate anew the heuristic and ethical potential of that turn; it also encourages us to bring to the fore and reassess the pervasiveness and problematics of the experience of exile, displacement and dispossession in Shakespearean drama. Thus the topic should be found engaging and compelling by the ESRA community, now that our geopolitics and sense of belonging are being challenged and readjusted, daily, by the crises of human mobility.
All in all the chosen topic should provide ample scope for epistemological approaches as well as for discovering new proximities with the Souths of the world and between Northern and Mediterranean seas, daily crossed and redesigned by thousands of stories of outcasts and shipwrecks.
The topic should also be useful for discovering new contiguities between past and present. Ancient Rome, with its expanded geography, looms large on Shakespeare’s imagination. Rome was a world-wide stage on which to project the performances of the Elizabethans’ growing imperial ambitions, in a logic of translatio imperii, or of “cultural mobility” in the terms it is being re-conceptualized nowadays. But Rome was also a global stage on which to address issues as crucial as centre, periphery, edges, borders, landmarks, elsewheres, otherness, hybridity, cross-cultural encounters and dynamics.
Thus the topic suits productively the variety of Shakespeare’s geographies as well as the chosen Roman venue.