Blue humanities, oceans, storms, swimming, poetry, Shakespeare
Five Ways of Seeing the Steinsee
The true eye of the earth is water.
I. The Last Shortest Day
On my last day as a Landhaus fellow at the Rachel Carson Center, with thin December light not quite thawing the snow, I abandoned packing to hike out to the Steinsee. A small Alpine lake near the town of Moosach about a half dozen kilometers away from the fellows’ house on the ecofarm in Herrmannsdorf, Germany, the Steinsee contains, on its southeastern corner, a small swimming area, Moosacher Bad. That was my final...
I swim to think and to stay afloat in an ever-wetter world
Steve Mentzis professor at St John’s University in New York, where he teaches Shakespeare, literary theory and the ‘blue humanities’ with a focus on environmental questions. His most recent book is Ocean (2020). He lives in Short Beach, Connecticut.
Pools open portals. All bodies of water issue invitations, but there’s a special doorway provided by a familiar concrete rectangle, usually 25 or 50 metres long, filled with warm water. In that unnatural geometry, human bodies are buoyed up by blu...
Soiling the World
On a cold morning after a winter storm, I start my day by putting a green bin at the top of my snowy driveway. Walking the dogs a few minutes later, I observe the pattern of brightly-colored containers in front of houses as if they were signs, green symbols of allegiance to compost, an ancient and contemporary environmental practice. Why do only some homes put out their scraps on Monday mornings? I look for a pattern – do the green containers cluster in front of homes near the water, or those...
Wading into the rip currents of online learning evangelism and countersurging cries of alarm about the corporatization of higher ed, Steve Mentz and Christopher Schaberg seek steady footing.
Should we teach online? Our chairs and directors are asking us to do so, as they weigh student demand for online courses with the existing supply of face-to-face classes. These decisions about pedagogy often come in a rush, obfuscated by institutional pressures, departmental habits or day-to-day operations. What does the choice mean for students and instructors?
Pausing in the midst of the hubbub, we two professors at different higher education institutions decided ...
The Imaginative Flows of 'Shakespeare's Maritime Dream: A Conversation About Public Humanities and Performance
Conversation about ecology, water, and Shakespeare
Episode 72: Life After the Ph.D. with Dr. Steven Mentz, Dr. Meghan P. Nolan, Dr. Melissa Rampelli, & Dr. Daniel Dissinger
In Episode 72, Dr. Steven Mentz of the Saint John’s University English Department interviews three SJU Alums about what academic, writing, and teaching life is like after the Ph.D. This was a special episode for Dr. Mentz’s graduate theory course, and some of these questions come straight form his students.
Steve Mentz is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches Shakespeare, the environmental humanities, literary theory, and poetry. His recent publicati...
Three Poems By Steve Mentz
Not our call, boy. Pronounce your own sentence,
And let its cold raw taste linger, bitter –
A stench of unform’d words and off syntax,
Sour milk fingers just now refresh Twitter.
And what about their words, that last longest?
Dead again today, pinned between covers,
Hot, in quarantine that lasts through August,
Verses of voyages, expiring brothers.
The Friar’s letter never was delivered.
The searchers of the town locked him in.
Slant-rhymes fish-like were silvered,
And burn hot in...
Water threatens human bodies. Many of us love the water, but it’s toxic.
That toxicity is not the familiar water-song that blue humanities scholars, including me, love to sing. Most of the time I’m humming along with Rachel Carson about how the sea is the “great mother of life,” filling up our bodies and overspilling the surface of our planet. But during this dry Covid winter I’ve been cooped up inside thinking about the stresses humans face when confronted with watery environments. Land mamm...
ASLE Spotlight: Water Works
Episode 2 of ASLE Spotlight focuses on the "blue humanities" and features: Craig Santos Perez, Habitat Threshhold Steve Mentz, Ocean Brian Russell Roberts, Borderwaters: Amid the Archipelagic States of America Tori Bush, editor, The Gulf South: An Anthology of Environmental Writing Moderated by Bethany Wiggin, ASLE Co-President, with assistance from Melody Jue. More details on ASLE Spotlight episodes can be found at: https://www.asle.org/stay-informed/as...
Mentz, Steve. Ocean. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.
The ocean comprises the largest object on our planet. Retelling human history from an oceanic rather than terrestrial point of view unsettles our relationship with the natural environment. Our engagement with the world’s oceans can be destructive, as with today’s deluge of plastic trash and acidification, but the mismatch between small bodies and vast seas also emphasizes the frailty and resilience of human experience. From ancient stori...
Craig Lambert and Steven Mentz on Approaches to Late Medieval and Early Modern Maritime Worlds
Interview about Routledge Companion to Marine and Maritime Worlds, 1400 - 1800
Mellon Coastal Humanities conversation, May 28, 2020
Interview with UGA's Humanities Center
Swimming in the Anthropocene
From late May through early November, I walk down the street each day and throw my body into Long Island Sound. I swim out past the offshore rocks, musing about poetry, the weather, or my current writing projects. Passing over the beach, I recall the privilege of access and think about how coastal real estate in the United States gets distributed by race, wealth, and class.1
When I’m in the water, it takes some effort to concentrate on politics or poetics. While I’m swimming, some part of me ...