By Corinne Murdock
One of the latest diversity hires by Arizona State University (ASU) for their Shakespeare program researches and promotes critical race theory. She is one of five others hired recently on the basis of their race and similar perspectives on that race within academia.
Soon-to-be assistant professor Dr. Brandi Adams shared with ASU in an interview that she’s especially excited about her ongoing work in premodern critical race studies, and how that intersects with the history of reading.
The first search return for “premodern critical race studies” is a website on Ayanna Thompson – the same Regents Professor of English and Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies director that hired Adams and four other “diverse” professors.
According to the Folger Shakespeare Library, premodern critical race studies argues that there were times in history that perceptions of race didn’t exist. Instead, other aspects like faith and family were scrutinized.
“Today, premodern critical race studies scholars are offering new insights into the prehistory of modern racialized thinking and racism. They are helping to create anti-racist spaces.”
Adams spoke at the Folger Shakespeare Library on the subject in March.
As for application of Adams’ research in premodern critical race studies, she shared in the ASU interview that the research would be part of a chapter for a collected volume on the relationship between premodern critical race theory and the histories of books and reading.
Adams’ dissertation, Representations of Books and Readers in English Renaissance Drama, didn’t focus on premodern critical race theory.
Additionally, Adams recommended four novels. All of the recommendations were steeped in social justice messaging such as race and climate change. These were: “American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson, “Broken Earth” by N.K. Jemisin, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, and “The Old Drift” by Namwali Serpell.
Last June, Adams published a piece on Medium that relayed a postmodernist approach. She criticized Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AK) remarks implying that Shakespeare’s works were an integral influence on American principles, linking Cotton’s physical attributes such as his skin color to his perspectives, beliefs, and morality.
Adams took offense to Cotton’s “effortless alignment of Shakespeare with both the casual and systemic racism woven into our national landscape.” She decried the universal conflation of Shakespeare and “whiteness.”
“Cotton remains wholly unoriginal in claiming Shakespeare as fundamental to a white American university education,” wrote Adams. “He is, however, part of a disappointing recent trend of public figures, critics, filmmakers, and even scholars who have continued to adapt, appropriate, or write about Shakespeare’s plays with a problematic central tenet – that there is a specific perspective needed to regard them. More often than not, the lens through which we are asked to consider these plays is that of a white, cisgender, able-bodies, man who often vociferously insists that he embodies the universal interpretive mode for all conversations about Shakespeare.”
Adams will work under the Department of English and the Arizona Center for Medieval Renaissance Studies. Some of her forthcoming works include chapters, articles, or reviews focused on premodern critical race studies, inclusivity, “Blackness,” and race.
Adams didn’t respond to AZ Free News’ request for comment by press time.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to email@example.com.