The Discord Between the Elements and Human Nature: Ecophobia and Renaissance English Drama
Yılmaz, Zümre Gizem
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Pointing to the ecophobic psyche prominent in social practices by means of the textual portrayals of selected Renaissance plays, this dissertation aims to examine how the physical environment is taken under human control through discursive formations. Taking the elements as well as the human body as the inseparable constituents of nature, this dissertation mainly focuses on the anthropocentric control of the four main elements (earth, water, fire, air) in Renaissance environmental politics through the study of twelve different early modern plays, namely Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Part I and Part II (1587), Doctor Faustus (1604) and The Jew of Malta (1633), Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair (1614) and The Devil is an Ass (1616), John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (1623), John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s The Sea Voyage (1647), Thomas Heywood and William Rowley’s Fortune by Land and Sea (1607), George Chapman’s May Day (1611), Thomas Dekker and John Webster’s Westward Ho (1607) and Northward Ho (1607), and George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston’s Eastward Ho (1605). These plays not only express the most pressing environmental concerns of the period but also provide a sturdy base for the analysis of the signs of pollution stemming from human interference. In this vein, these plays expose the ecophobic control of the elemental bodies reverberating both in the daily lives of human beings and in literary presentations. Furthermore, underlining the material formations inside the human body, this study points to the intermeshment of human and nonhuman as the human body is also composed of the natural organisms and elemental bodies just like the physical environment. In this way, epistemology and ontology, long segregated from each other according to human-centred discourses, are interrelated. In the introduction of this dissertation, the theoretical backgrounds of ancient elemental philosophy, Renaissance ideology, elemental ecocriticism, and ecophobia are provided. Moreover, the introduction also presents the portrayals of environmental issues already embedded in Renaissance literature especially with the revival of the pastoral tradition which draws attention to early modern environmental problems and pollution. In this context, dwelling on ancient elemental philosophy, new materialisms, elemental ecocriticism, and ecophobia, this dissertation aims to provide an ecocritical reading of the selected plays, mirroring how cultural and environmental speculations of the ecophobic psyche are captured in Renaissance English drama. As exemplified in the selected plays, environmental degradation resulting from the ecophobic control impulse is most basically observed in the elemental paradigms. Therefore, each elemental agency is examined in three different plays in each chapter, hence shedding light on Renaissance environmental politics and conceptualisations of nature/culture, and human/nonhuman. The four chapters (“Earth,” “Water,” “Fire,” and “Air”) undertake an elemental and ecocritical analyses of the above-mentioned selected plays.