Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in English



First Advisor

Karen Raber

Second Advisor

Ivo Kamps

Third Advisor

Ari Friedlander

Relational Format



This thesis squarely approaches the overlooked theoretical nexus of early modern blue ecologies and LGBTQIA2S+ studies to argue that Shakespeare's ocean is a deeply queer space that inspires both queer and trans effects in his characters, plays, and audiences across time. I argue you can’t fully process Shakespeare’s aquatic environments, and the broader range of his more watery plays, without accounting for the queer destabilization and trans self-fashioning that is inextricably linked with encountering the ocean, whether it is through shipwreck, ship travel, or near-drownings. This project recreates a lost world using whatever small gems of textual and historical evidence that we are left with. At the same time that this thesis is making meaning from the early modern ocean, I want to be careful not just to use the ocean as a mirror for humanity. We may learn from the ocean, especially in the context of climate change, and how the ocean impacts Shakespeare's characters, but this project is also about reading the ocean for the ocean’s sake. Connecting queer and trans studies to Shakespeare’s ocean is important for the field of early modern blue studies, especially as a push back against historicist strains of reading which construct obstacles for linking contemporary experiences of the LGBTQIA2S+ community with Shakespeare. Expanding our understanding of the ocean towards the theoretical realms of queer and trans identity allows for a greater understanding of the disorienting effects blue spaces produce on us humans. Using non-normative gender and sexuality as an experiential and bodily starting place, we might better recognize how aquatic environments require vastly different modes of meaning-making, argument, and experience than land-based spaces where we feel comfortable and at home. Aligning early modern blue studies with generative work in queer and trans studies also requires ecocritical fields to grapple directly with marginalized bodies, both in Shakespeare's plays and contemporary identities.



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