Black Lives Matter in "Titus Andronicus"
In his classes at Binghamton University, David Sterling Brown and his students examine Shakespeare’s plays through the lens of Critical Race Theory. You might have heard about Critical Race Theory lately: put simply, it’s a way of looking at society and culture that focuses on the intersections of race, law, and power. Ever since George Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis outraged much of the nation, Critical Race Theory has taken on a new urgency for millions of Americans examining race, law and power with new eyes. Meanwhile, millions of other Americans, pointing to the realities of their own day-to-day lives, are basically saying: “I told you so.”
What does it mean to read a play like Titus Andronicus with questions of race in mind? Brown, who has written extensively about that play, joins us on the podcast to discuss the ways that such a reading reveals an entire dimension of racial imagery and racial violence. We also talk about what it means for theaters and cultural institutions to engage in anti-racist work. David Sterling Brown is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.
Dr. David Sterling Brown is a professor of English, General Literature and Rhetoric at Binghamton University/State University of New York. He is an executive board member of the RaceB4Race conference series.
He is the author of “‘Is Black so Base a Hue?’: Black Life Matters in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus,” a chapter in the anthology Early Modern Black Diaspora Studies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); “Remixing the Family,” which appeared in Titus Andronicus: The State of Play (The Arden Shakespeare, 2019); and “The ‘Sonic Color Line’: Shakespeare and the Canonization of Sexual Violence Against Black Men,” published in the August 16, 2019 edition of The Sundial. He is currently finalizing his book project, Black Domestic Matters in Shakespearean Drama. More of his work has been published or is forthcoming in Shakespeare Studies, Radical Teacher, Hamlet: The State of Play, White People in Shakespeare, The Hare, Early Modern Black Diaspora Studies, Shakespeare and Digital Pedagogy, and other venues.
With Jennifer L. Stoever, he joined the Folger Institute in August for a Critical Race Conversation: “The Sound of Whiteness, Or Teaching Shakespeare’s ‘Other “Race Plays”’ in Five Acts.” Watch it now on YouTube.
From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Published November 10, 2020. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, ““Coal-Black is Better Than Another Hue,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Evan Marquart at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California.