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Shakespeare & Science examines Shakespearean drama in light of early practices, theories, and conceptual lexicons of anatomy, cartography, botany, physics, cosmology, meteorology, experimental science, and early variants of “life science.” In doing so, it aims, on the one hand, to expand our understanding of the relationships between art and science, nature and norms, and experience and experiment in the early modern period, and, on the other hand, to attend to the relative neglect of Shakespeare in recent scholarship on literature and science informed by new developments in the History of Science and Science Studies. Featuring new articles by Jean Feerick, Carla Mazzio, Kristen Poole, Elizabeth Spiller, Valerie Traub, Henry Turner, and William West, this Special Issue aims to move beyond earlier assessments of Shakespeare and particular sciences, and beyond the analysis of thematic traces of, or indeed reflections of, historical arenas of scientific practice, investigation and explication. It aims rather, to move toward a more nuanced understanding of forms of consilience and contestation between dramatic and scientific practices, epistemologies, mentalities, and assumptions integral to the making and unmaking of knowledge. While presenting a series of varied and innovative arguments on science, culture and Shakespearean drama, this volume is designed to pose as many questions as it provides answers, and in doing so to spur new research into Shakespeare and the manifold “sciences” that informed, and would be informed by, his works.
Mazzio’s introduction historicizes “science” c. 1600 and maps out earlier interests in “Shakespeare and science,: including a still largely unexplored archive of nineteenth and early twentieth-century scientific practitioners (of chemistry, meteorology, entomology, ornithology, botany, medicine and mineralogy) writing books and articles on Shakespeare and their particular area of specialization. It also attends to various treatments of Shakespeare and various sciences in the twentieth century in order to emphasize that, while the articles themselves offer new approaches and insights to Shakespearean drama, Shakespeare & Science emerges even as it departs from a long and variegated tradition of inquiry into Shakespearean drama and practices and forms of knowledge aligned with the sciences.