For many years now theatre directors have argued about how to present Shakespeare's The Tempest. Originally, the play was seen as Prospero's use of magic to reclaim his European heritage against corrupt usurpers. More recently, the play has been produced as a protest against the ongoing colonialism in the new world. In his 2011 Garnett Sedgewick Lecture at the University of BC, Professor Harris explores the play and its historical background to show how it is driven by a waking dream in which progress towards a glorious future shades into recovery of a lost past. Drawing on the logbook of Christopher Columbus in his voyage of discovery, Harris reminds us how Columbus believed that he was travelling to the East and that he had approached the original Garden of Eden. Moreover, the gold that was to be found in the supposed East would be used to create the prosperity of the West. In his examination of contemporary anti-colonialist productions of The Tempest, Harris shows how there remains a move backwards to an original paradise — in fact replicating the movement within The Tempest itself.
Jonathan Gil Harris
Jonathan Gil Harris is a Professor of English at George Washington University. He is the author of four books: Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic: Discourses of Social Pathology in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 1998); Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare's England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004); Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), named by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009; and Shakespeare and Literary Theory (Oxford University Press, 2010).
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