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“A numerous fleet of cormorants black, / That sailed insulting o’er the wrack”: Greed and Meaning in Shakespeare and Others

 Cormorants black

The Early Modern Literature Forum
Presenter: Professor Gordon McMullan (King's College London)
Date: Friday, April 26, 2013
Time: 4:00pm
Location: Room 202A,  Learning and Innovation Building, UQ  St Lucia Campus

The cormorant is a ubiquitous yet much-maligned seabird that can be found from London to Canberra and anywhere in between, and in early modern England it had a surprisingly complex range of meanings. Beginning with Paradise Lost and then working through the writings of Marvell and others, Gordon McMullan traces the pattern of early modern literary and arthistorical representations of the cormorant, noting its reversible role as a kind of pharmakon, as both Christ and Satan, and concluding with a reading of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice that takes the cormorant and its genetic/symbolic cousin the pelican as the basis for a new understanding both of a famous textual crux in the play and of the resolution of the pound-of-flesh scene. In the process, he reflects on the oblique yet generative relationship between the natural world and its literary and visual representation.

Gordon McMullan is Professor of English at King's College London, a general textual editor of The Norton Shakespeare, and a general editor of Arden Early Modern Drama. His publications include Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing: Authorship in the Proximity of Death (2007), the Arden Shakespeare edition of Henry VIII (2000), and The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher (1994). He has edited four collections of essays, including, most recently, Reading the Medieval in Early Modern England, co-edited with David Matthews (2007). He has held a Leverhulme Fellowship (2002-3), a Research Fellowship of the Humanities Research Centre at the ANU (2006), and a Lloyd Davis Visiting Shakespeare Professorship at UQ (2008).

The Early Modern Literature Forum is an opportunity for those working on English and European literature and drama, 1500-1800 (or in related fields, such as history, philosophy, music, or the history of art) to share research and engage in discussion about texts and issues of common interest. Regular fortnightly meetings will take place on Fridays at 4:00pm in Room 202A of the Learning and Innovation Building on the UQ St Lucia campus.

For further information contact Ross Knecht at r.knecht@uq.edu.au or Brandon Chua at b.chua@uq.edu.au.