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Shakespeare – Othello and Race

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course, Professor Ania Loomba (University of Pennsylvania) explores the question of race in Shakespeare's 'Othello'. In the first module, we think about what race meant to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, exploring the long history of blackness in European literature, and considering some of the key historical changes in 15th- and 16th-century Europe that contributed to changing attitudes about race. In the second module, we think about the extent to which Othello's jealousy is presented as being dependent on his race – to what extent, in other words, is his jealous because he is black? – before turning in the third module to consider the interplay between sex, sexism and racism in the play, especially the extent to which Othello's status as a victim of racism is linked to his status as an agent of sexism. In the fourth module, we delve a little deeper into this topic by thinking about the interplay between race, sex and class in the play, before turning in the fifth and final module to consider the issue of race in the performance history of Othello.

Note: We used the Arden edition of the play (Third Series, Revised Edition, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.

About the Lecturer

Ania Loomba is the Catherine Bryson Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She researches and teaches early modern literature, histories of race and colonialism, postcolonial studies, feminist theory, and contemporary Indian literature and culture. Her writings include Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama (1989), Colonialism/Postcolonialism (1998), and Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism (2002). She has co-edited Post-Colonial Shakespeares (1998), Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (2005), Race in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion (2007) and South Asian Feminisms (co-edited with Ritty A. Lukose, 2012). She has also produced a critical edition of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra (2011)