Henry S. Turner

research, publications, teaching

Shakespeare’s Double Helix

sdhShakespeare’s Double Helix (“Shakespeare Now!” series; Continuum Press, 2008) launches an analysis into the challenges posed by the creative imagination to modern scientific inquiry through a reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (c. 1595), a play written when the “new science” had begun to unsettle the foundations of Western knowledge about the natural world. The play invites us to enter a culture that knew nothing of “our” humanity: nothing of DNA, nothing of biotechnology, nothing of transplants or of the cell. And yet if we regard A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the contemporary eye that the “Shakespeare Now!” series invites, we find startlingly familiar scenes, organized around problems that continue to drive the scientific thought of our own era. Over the course of two essays, printed in facing-page format and twisted around shared terms, images, and theoretical problems, Shakespeare’s Double Helix attempts to restore for modern readers the richness and peculiarity of the “nature of nature” in Shakespeare’s own moment while at the same time showing how the questions he poses provide new resources for understanding the science of the twenty-first century: its languages and mimetic forms; its presuppositions, claims, and purposes; its radical power to produce the subjects and objects of a posthuman world.

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