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Race and Shakespearean Performance

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Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery



Ayanna Thompson, Associate Dean of the Faculty and Department of English, Arizona State University


What does it mean to cast Shakespeare in a nontraditional way? How is Shakespeare’s universalism constructed within explicit discussions and debates about racial identity? And, do the answers to these questions impact our understanding of authorship, authority, and authenticity? This talk will examine the ways Shakespeare, race, and performance intersect on the twenty-first century stage.


Ayanna Thompson is Associate Dean of Faculty in the College of  Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of English at Arizona State  University. She specializes in Renaissance drama and focuses on issues  of race and performance. She is the author of two books: Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary  America (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage  (Routledge, 2008), and the editor of two books: Weyward Macbeth:Intersections of Race and Performance (Palgrave  Macmillan, 2010) (co-edited with Scott Newstok) and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance  (Routledge, 2006). In addition, she is the guest editor of two special editions of scholarly journals: “Shakespeare, Race, and  Performance,” Shakespeare  Bulletin (special issue 27.3, Fall 2009) and “Actors of  Color in Shakespeare,” Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation  (special issue 4.1, Spring/Summer 2008).


In addition, Professor Thompson’s essays and reviews have  appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly, Renaissance  Quarterly, Seventeenth-Century News, The Eighteenth  Century, The Journal of Popular Culture,  Textus, and Arthuriana. Professor Thompson received  her A.B. from Columbia University. As a recipient of a Marshall  Scholarship, she received her M.A. at Sussex University in England and  she received her Ph.D. from Harvard University, where she studied  under Stephen Greenblatt, Marjorie Garber, Barbara Lewalski and Werner  Sollors.

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