The UCONN Early Modern Studies Working Group invites you to a guest lecture by JANE HWANG DEGENHARDT, “The ‘Kindness’ of Humans: Empathy, Race, and Kind in The Tempest and The Shape of Water” on November 1st, at 12:30 PM in the UCHI Conference Room. A lunch will precede the talk, which is open to the public. Please invite colleagues and students who might be interested. Please RSVP for the lunch at firstname.lastname@example.org
The “Kindness” of Humans: Empathy, Race, and Kind in The Tempest and The Shape of Water
Pairing Shakespeare’s Tempest and Guillermo del Toro’s film The Shape of Water, this talk focuses attention on the kinds of criteria by which we come to distinguish who is human from who is not. Both of these works provide us with an ambiguously hybrid being who strains the definition of the human and in turn helps to shore up a more stable but relationally-constituted ideal for what the human should and should not be. In seeking to define a relationship between humanity and humaneness, which privileges kindness, compassion, and empathy for others, both play and film project a limit case that demonstrates how the category of the human is fundamentally bounded, exclusionary, and relationally-determined. This talk demonstrates the need for a human rights approach that moves beyond the distinction of the human while at the same time avoiding the assumptions of a post-human movement that implicitly reaffirms a normative or universalized conception of humanity and denies the ways that metaphysical orders of being are determined through a logic of race. We cannot embrace an approach to social justice that moves beyond the ontology of the human race without first acknowledging the mutually exclusive constitution of human and race.
Jane Hwang Degenhardt is associate professor in the department of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance on the Early Modern Stage (2010) and co-editor of Religion and Drama in Early Modern England (2011). She is currently completing a book entitled Fortune’s Empire: Chance, Providence, and Overseas Ventures in Early Modern English Drama that explores evolving understandings of “fortune” in relation to English global expansion. She is also beginning a new project on the concept of “the world” in the plays of Shakespeare. Provisionally titled Shakespeare in the World / The World in Shakespeare, this study considers how Shakespeare as a global phenomenon might be used as a vehicle for devising more ethical worldviews that resist the violence–racial, gendered, epistemological, and material–of globalization.
Professor Degenhardt’s talk is made possible through the support of the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and is co-sponsored by the University of Connecticut English Department.