Title

When the Master’s Tools Fail: Racial Euphemism in Shakespeare Appropriation, or, the Activist Value of Premodern Critical Race Studies

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-13-2022

Abstract

As premodern studies continues to develop tools for anti-racist scholarship and pedagogy, this essay establishes the stakes of adaptation/appropriation studies especially committing to these efforts. Turning to the novel The Serpent of Venice, I demonstrate how appropriations that engage with race too often employ what I frame as racial euphemism: palliative engagements with race that sidestep questions of power and inequity. This is especially true for those attempting to maintain distance between Shakespeare and questions of race, and especially racism, often under the guise of historical accuracy. This racially euphemistic approach, therefore, disseminates to especially wide audiences white supremacist approaches to race. Premodern Critical Race Studies provides a vital activist framework, and with it, important conceptual and methodological tools, that help adaptation/appropriation scholars identify racial euphemism in premodern retellings, while at the same time offering appropriators scholarship that can help them craft anti-racist appropriations that resist the idea of a race-neutral past.

Journal Title

Literature Compass

Issue

e12634

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1111/lic3.12634

First Department

English

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