St. John’s University English Department
Summer 2024 Graduate Course Flyer

Summer Session I: May 28 – July 2, 2024

ENG. 300: Shakespeare and Early Modern Studies
(CRN 30870)

King Lear in the AnthropoceneGeorge Romney, pen and ink, 18c, Britain

ASYNCHRONOUS ONLINE (with some synchronous sessions and Field Seminars)
Dr. Steve Mentz Email:

No work of art speaks more urgently to Anthropocene terrors than Shakespeare’s King Lear. The old
king, thrust into the storm, feels humanity’s environmental vulnerabilities to his skin. This June,
acclaimed theater director Karin Coonrod will debut a new experimental production of King Lear at the
International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, CT. There will also be a public panel on the New
Haven Green about “King Lear in the Anthropocene,” chaired by St. John’s Steve Mentz.

The play, production, and panel form the backbone of this course. We will also respond to
modern versions of Shakespeare’s tragedy, including Grigori Kozintsev’s 1970 Russian-language film,
Akira Kurasawa’s 1985 Japanese-language samurai epic, Ran, and “Songs of Lear,” an experimental
performance by the Polish company Song of the Goat. We will read ecologically-focused criticism of the
play, including Craig Dionne’s Posthuman Lear (2016). We will also read the Lear-inflected novel We
That Are Young (2017) by British writer Preeti Taneja.

This course encourages students to respond intellectually and creatively to the four-hundred-year
history of this play. Students will each construct personal reactions to the play and consider how this
work of literary art may enable human responses to the environmental and political crises in which we
live now. Students are encouraged to pursue creative projects, to engage with discourses both critical and
artistic, and to build course projects that center their own research.

The class is asynchronous online (i.e., no required live Zooms). Students are encouraged (but not
required) to attend King Lear and the Ideas Panel in New Haven in June.

With questions or concerns, please contact Steve Mentz:, @stevermentz on
X/twitter, @smentz on Instagram. (No TikTok yet…)