“Fog and Filthy Air”: Macbeth, the Global and the Planetary, and Covid-19

jonathan gil harris

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Professor Jonathan Gil Harris, Ashoka University

Building on the recent work of Dipesh Chakrabarty, this talk thinks about how Macbeth’s Witches introduce into the play an imagination that is both global and planetary. But whereas the global is a largely anthropocentric concept, mapping the world in terms of fixed states and cities such as Aleppo, the planetary is a frame that embeds the human within churning assemblages that also include non-human entities and elements. The “fog and filthy air” of Macbeth – as performed in the early seventeenth century, and of the author’s location in Covid-stricken contemporary New Delhi – both demand to be seen in this way.

There will be time for an audience Q&A following Professor Harris’s talk, chaired by Professor Nandini Das (Faculty of English, University of Oxford.

Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English and Founding Dean of Academic Affairs at Ashoka University. Until 2013, he was Professor of English at George Washington University and Associate Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly. Harris is the author of many books on Shakespeare, including Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Literary Theory, Marvellous Repossessions: The Tempest, Globalisation, and the Waking Dream of Paradise, and, most recently, Masala Shakespeare: How a Firangi Writer Became Indian. He is also a scholar of medical history, having published two books – Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic, Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism and Disease in Shakespeare's England – on epidemic disease and its impact on political thought, economic thought, and drama. He is best known in India as the author of the best-seller The First Firangis: Remarkable Stories of Healers, Heroes, Charlatans, Courtesans, and Other Foreigners Who Became Indian. Harris was president of the Shakespeare Society of India from 2014 to 2018, and is currently editing Macbeth for Cambridge University Press. He is also about to publish a new book, The Jewish Silk Road: Secrets from My Mother's Chinese Tea-Chest.

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