Shakespeare in Space: The Bard and Science Fiction

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Duration 01:05:12

University of California at San Diego

Seth Lerer is Distinguished Professor of Literature and former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on literature and language– most recently on Children’s Literature, Jewish culture, and the life of the theater. He has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism. Among his many publications, he has written the books Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past, Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, and Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage.



We all know that William Shakespeare’s plays have had an immense impact on modern literature and society. But did you know that an important part of that impact has been on science fiction? The Tempest inspired the landmark 1957 film, Forbidden Planet. Plays such as Hamlet and Henry V inspired scenes in television’s classic Star Trek. Macbeth is all over Dr. Who, and the tensions between fathers and sons that motivate such plays as Henry IV and King Lear also energize the Star Wars empire. And in The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare imagines fantasy worlds of power, magic, and exploration; Prospero’s Island and Oberon’s Forest of Arden have become the models for distant planets.

Shakespeare’s language, always imaginative and inventive, has provided the script for explorers and aliens throughout modern times. We see outsiders such as Othello and Shylock transformed into aliens looking for acceptance. Finally, it is no accident that the great Shakespearean actors of our time – Alec Guinness, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Judy Dench, Ralph Fiennes, and David Tennant – have become the stars of modern fantasy. For these actors are the true magicians of our world, and their voices make us hear how Shakespeare echoes on other worlds as well. Join us for a unique presentation that will explore Shakespeare’s impact on modern science fiction.



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Nancy Gorka

Nancy G

Yet another wonderful, thought-provoking presentation by Prof. Lerer!

2 years ago
Jeffrey Watt

Shakespeare in Space

Fabulous and enthusiastic presentation! Delightful. How fun to get to learn so many interesting things at ODU!

2 years ago

Shakespeare in Space

I watched on my iPhone and just got to the review. Professor Lerer was really quite excellent. I had no idea of this connection and was very informed, enchanted and amazed how he put all of this together. Most sincere appreciation for his excellence in teaching and bring this all together. Congrats to ODU!!

2 years ago

Really enjoyed this

Although a lot of it was well-trodden ground, and from a rather American point of view, it was nice to see how the Star Trek shows in particular used elements of Shakespeare. It might have been nice to have included more Who and a bit of Blake’s 7, but you can’t have everything.

1 year ago
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