New Paper: “Decolonizing the Shakespeare Authorship Question”

My recently-published peer-reviewed paper, “By Nature Fram’d to Wear a Crown: Decolonizing the Shakespeare Authorship Question” (Brief Chronicles V) is now available on the University of Winnipeg’s WinnSpace Repository. The paper argues that the marginalization of the Shakespeare Authorship Question (or SAQ) in most universities did not originate — nor is it reproduced — solely in the politics of the academy, but rather in the imperial nature of the broader culture, in particular within the totalizing, essentialist and self-aggrandizing rhetoric concerning the “natural genius” of both “the West” and its paragon, William Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon. Postcolonial readings of early Shakespeareana and contemporary defenders of Western imperialism demonstrate how the routine invocation of “Nature” as an  explanatory metanarrative for both was the intellectual keystone justifying the the European-dominated global order of the colonial era, and the corresponding privileged position of the white race.  Both the colonizer and the biographically chimerical Shakespeare himself (being a foundational element of colonial education systems) were thus removed and protected from ontological scrutiny.

While decades of postcolonial scholarship have largely deconstructed this Western chauvinism within most academic discourse, owing to its taboo status no such critical, structural examination of the true identity of Shakespeare can be permitted, leaving in its original form one of the last bastions of Western exceptionalism. Using a postcolonial lens to interrogate the cultural assumptions underlying the centrality of Shakespeare’s supposed identity to the West’s flattering self-identity can aid us in charting more reflexive, critical scholarship in this field. Absent this decolonized perspective, however, Shakespeare studies programs are implicated in perpetuating a barely-recognized legacy of colonialism.

[Special thanks go to Brief Chronicles editor Roger Stritmatter for making my article available during the journal’s embargo period].


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