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Shakespeare lecture to cover many 'things'

March 22, 2012

English Renaissance culture – and Shakespeare’s plays – have been studied from many angles, and in honor of The Bard’s birthday, scholar Erica Fudge will introduce one more.

At 3:30 p.m., April 26, in West Hall room 135 on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, Fudge, from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, will give a free lecture titled "Renaissance Animal Things."

Using ideas from thing theory, Fudge considers whether animal things, particularly leather and civet, can ever have agency: that is, whether they are simply inert objects or are potentially powerful moving forces in culture.

Fudge traces the ways in which these things made, and unmade, meaning in English Renaissance culture using current ideas from sensory studies, Renaissance theology and natural history.

In her lecture, Fudge will move from dog-skin gloves to animal-based perfumes and end up with “King Lear,” a play in which:

• Furred gowns hide all (Act 4 Scene 6, Lear: “Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear; Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold, and the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks.).

• Men are forced to smell their way to Dover:

“All of the main characters in the play head toward Dover at the end, and one of them, Gloucester, has been blinded and mocked. Regan kicks him out of the house and says, ‘Let him smell / his way to Dover!’” explained Cora Fox, associate professor of English at ASU and scholar of Renaissance poetry and drama.

Using “King Lear” as her example, Fudge also will discuss the ideas of Bruno Latour, a very popular contemporary theorist who looking at the meanings of material objects in social life; the Biblical characters Jacob and Esau, to whom Lear refers; and the deer that “Poor Tom” is supposed to have eaten for “seven long year” (Act 3 Scene 4).

Fudge is a professor of English studies at the University of Strathclyde. Her work in animal studies is in three key areas: Renaissance Studies, human-animal interactions in contemporary culture, and the impact of animals on historiography.

She has written on a range of aspects of early modern culture including the place and meaning of laughter; urination and self-control; bestiality; bear baiting; meat eating; and faces.

She is, she said, currently spending much of her time “worrying about early 17th century cows.”

Fudge also will soon begin a small collaborative project with a zooarchaeologist to consider the whether it is possible to retrieve an understanding of the health care that domestic working animals received in the early modern period.

Fudge also is the director of the British Animal Studies Network:

The lecture is sponsored by the Department of English. For more information, contact Cora Fox at