“At the core of my pedagogy is the conviction that encountering early modernity through its literary remains should be a transformative experience allowing us to explore and better understand the past, the present, and ourselves. I want my students to discover texts, questions, and cultural artefacts that have shaped the best and the worst aspects of our world, but I also want them to grow aware of everything they bring or could bring to those objects in the act of interpretation”
Selection of Recently Taught Courses:
ENGL 56200: “Early Modern Critical Race Studies”
English Department, University of Chicago. PhD seminar.
This course explores the history and developments of Early Modern Critical Race Studies (pre-1700) from the inception of the field in the early 1990s to the present. We read classics and new classics on early modern racial formations; we discuss the theoretical and political roots of the field, the stages and controversies that have marked its history, and its major subfields—including presence studies and visual culture studies. At the end of the quarter, we explore the newest directions in which the field is headed, namely, critical whiteness studies and transnational critical race studies. Throughout, we remain attentive to the co-constitutive intersections of race with class, religion, gender, and sexuality.
This seminar explores the representation of Islam and Islamic cultures in early modern English literature, from the late Middle Ages to the beginning of the eighteenth century. At the end of the sixteenth century, England had a complex multifaceted relation to the Islamic world. Since the Crusades, it had treated this world as a deadly religious enemy to annihilate, but now it also saw it as a key diplomatically against the Spanish archenemy, as a fabulously rich trading partner in the world emporium of the Mediterranean Sea, and as an efficient model of empire to emulate in the Atlantic world. As a result, the Islamic world, which, despite its plurality was often reduced to the figure of the “Turk,” came to occupy a central place in English national imagination and maintained that place throughout the seventeenth century. What fantasies about the Islamic world does early modern English literature reveal? How do religion, race, gender, and sexuality intersect in the formation of those cultural fantasies? Do authors reinforce those fantasies or pressure them? How do specific English social, political, and cultural issues inform literary representations of Islam? What image of England emerges when English authors use Islam as a mirror? In other words, what do texts about Islam tell us about early modern England? To answer those questions, we read across genres, comparing romances, epic poems, plays, travel writing, and essays, and we will set canonical authors such as Chaucer, Spenser, Marlowe, Milton, and Shakespeare in conversation with other illuminating writers such as Richard Knolles, George Sandys, Robert Daborne, Henry Stubbe, and Mary Pix.
ENGL 29103/49103 - RLST 29103: “Representations of Islam in Early Modern England.”
English Department, University of Chicago. Graduate seminar.
“In my research, I study the circulation of power dynamics—especially those pertaining to race—across time, space, and aesthetic forms. My courses are designed to share the intellectual excitement that fuels my work by sharpening students’ analytical skills, challenging their critical thinking, and activating their imagination around questions that matter to them. In short, I seek to cultivate my students’ curiosity in the full etymological sense of the word, as both a thirst for knowledge and a form of care.”
ENGL 16500 / TAPS 28405 / FNDL 21403: “Shakespeare I: Histories and Comedies.”
English Department, University of Chicago. Lecture.
In this course, we explore some of Shakespeare’s major plays from the first half of his professional career, when the genres in which he primarily worked were comedies and histories. Plays to be studied include The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Richard III, Richard II, and Henry V. Together, we read some of Shakespeare’s queerest and most delightful comedies in conversation with darker troubling plays that revolve around sexual violence, racism, nationalism, and political theory, and we see how such topics put generic boundaries to the test. Valuing those classics for their timeless craft but also for the situated cultural horizon that they evidence, we explore what it means to take comedy and history seriously.
What’s Othello to us, or us to Othello? This course explores the role played by the Shakespearean canon in the shaping of Western ideas about Blackness, in long-term processes of racial formation, and in global racial struggles from the early modern period to the present. We read Shakespearean plays portraying Black characters (Othello, Titus Andronicus, The Tempest, and Antony and Cleopatra) in conversation with African-American, Caribbean, and Post-colonial rewritings of those plays by playwrights Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Bernard Jackson, Djanet Sears, Keith Hamilton Cobb, Aimé Césaire, Derek Walcott, Lolita Chakrabarti, as well as film-makers Max Julien and Jordan Peele. What happens when we perform the Bard’s Black plays today? How have Black theatre-makers spoken back over time? Can Shakespeare’s plays strategically be used against themselves? We get our finger on the pulse of those questions in conversation with theatre-makers (like Keith Hamilton Cobb, Kim Weild, and Debra Ann Byrd who visited this class as part of the UChicago “Black Baroque” focus series). Finally, because our thinking is future-oriented, students contribute to the online “Black Shakespeare(ans) Database,” a freely accessible digital humanities project.
ENGL 18860/38860 – TAPS 20040/30040 – CRES 18860: “Black Shakespeare”
English Department, University of Chicago. Advanced undergraduate and graduate seminar.
The Black Shakespeare(ans) Database (BSD)
Black theatre-makers have loved, worked with, and worked through Shakespeare’s plays for a very long time and in very different ways. The Black Shakespeare(ans) Database (BSD) highlights the history, complexity, and vibrancy of that performance tradition by giving visibility to classically trained Black actors, directors, playwrights, and dramaturgs in North America and beyond. Each featured artist’s page includes a biography, an interview, and a transcript of that interview, as well as the artist’s contact information. Although the BSD is designed to become richer and richer over time, it does not aim for exhaustivity: this is a repository of qualitative, not quantitative, knowledge. The BSD is, indeed, a space for Black artists to tell their story, speak their truth, and reflect upon their relation to Shakespeare and performance. In this space for story-telling, we invite all scholars, theatre-makers, and theatre-lovers to listen, learn, and re-imagine possibilities together.