On Friday afternoon, after the office lights had gone out and the campus rushed off into this gorgeous late-summer weather, a committee of Drs. Mentz, Tsou, and Ganter enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation about the relationship between history and literature, the idea and historical facts regarding the “early modern African,” the nature of agency in early modern and early twenty-first century cultures, and — perhaps not incidentally — just a bit of Shakespeare too. We were pleased and proud to be the first people to congratulate Dr. Danielle Lee on her innovative and necessary work.
Her dissertation, “Points of Origin: Crediting the Early Modern African as Actor of the Atlantic System,” brought together the discursive spaces of racial and geographic mythography, literary representations, and recent developments in historical scholarship. The project sought, from its origins in a memorable seminar paper for a course during her first semester at St. John’s, a way to re-write the African experience against and within the canonical frame of Shakespeare’s plays. To accomplish this daunting task, Dr. Lee sought material such disparate materials as the largely fanciful but very popular late medieval tales of John Mandeville, English and Portuguese accounts of \sixteenth-century voyages to West Africa. the travel narratives of the sixteenth-century North African diplomat Leo Africanus (al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan alFasi) as well as primary documentation about Africans living in early modern London. The dissertation builds to a powerful reconsideration of the African figure on stage in Titus Andronicus, Othello, and The Tempest.
Join us in wishing Dr. Lee congratulations on her brilliant work!