Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature at The University of Chicago
Noémie Ndiaye is the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature at the University of Chicago. She is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris) and she received her Ph.D. in Theatre from Columbia University.
She works on early modern English, French, and Spanish drama, theater, and performance culture with a critical focus on race, as well as gender and sexuality. In her research, writing, and teaching, she explores the relation between theater—understood simultaneously as a medium, a practice, an industry, an institution, a social force, and a vibrant malleable set of literary forms—and the social, political, and cultural struggles of early modernity. At the core of those struggles and of her interests lay crucial processes of racial, gender, and identity formation, which she studies in a comparative and transnational framework. Balancing meticulous historicization with transhistorical theoretical insights, Ndiaye’s scholarship is at the intersection of early modern literary studies, critical race studies, theater and performance studies, and comparative literature.
“I see early modern European theatre and performance culture at large as powerful sites for the making of racial formations that shaped our world. I seek to illuminate early modern performance culture in all its vibrancy as a force field where coalescing ideologies and competing ideas of race met embodied fiction. As they did so, they found their way into European minds and hearts in the age of nascent capitalism, colonization, and color-based slavery. I want to understand how the beautiful fables that made humans in the age of humanism also made monsters.”
Her first monograph Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race (University of Pennsylvania Press, Fall 2022) shows how performance culture helped strategically turn blackness into a racial category across early modern Western Europe. It builds upon her doctoral dissertation, which won the Shakespeare Association of America’s J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Award for 2018. She is the co-editor with Lia Markey of Seeing Race Before Race: Visual Culture and the Racial Matrix in the Premodern World (ACMRS Press, Spring 2023), which explores the deployment of racial thinking and racial formations in the visual culture of the world from 1300 to 1800. In her second monograph, Early Modernity in Black and Brown (in progress), she expands her theorization of the racial matrix by focusing on the historical and representational juxtapositions, frictions, and solidarities between Black people and Jewish, Muslim, Romani, Indigenous, and East Asian people in early modernity, in an attempt to disrupt the histories that white supremacy has written of relations between Black and non-Black people of color from early modernity onwards. Ndiaye has published articles in Shakespeare Quarterly, Renaissance Quarterly, Renaissance Drama, Early Theatre, English Literary Renaissance, Literature Compass, Thaêtre, and in various edited collections.
“Because early modernity saw the rise of nation-state formation and a literary Golden Age in many European countries, texts from that period play a special role: in those fables, which are still performed on stage today, collective imagination, reflected in syllabi and cultural politics, begins to define national identity. I seek to open up those definitions by locating a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) presence in early modern European culture, and by showing that interracial negotiations, white supremacist leanings, and minoritarian resistance to those leanings have been part of European identity from its inception.”
Noémie Ndiaye’s faculty profile webpage at the University of Chicago.
Full academic Curriculum Vitae available upon request.