Noémie Ndiaye

andy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature in the Department of English Language and Literature and the College
Walker 513
PhD, Columbia University, 2017

In my research and teaching, I explore the relation between theater—understood simultaneously as a medium, a practice, an industry, an institution, a social force, and a vibrant malleable set of literary forms—and the social, political, and cultural struggles of early modernity. At the core of those struggles and of my interests lay crucial processes of racial, gender, and identity formation, which I study within a framework that is comparative, transnational, and often transhistorical. My work is thus at the intersection of early modern literary studies, critical race studies, theater and performance studies, and comparative literature.

In my book in progress, Racecraft: Early Modern Repertoires of Blackness, I dissect the stagecraft used in early modern theater to represent and racialize Africans and Afro-descendants across borders in early modern England, France, and Spain. At the end of the 16th century, in a context of global expansion, the racial matrix produced a new paradigm: the word race started referring to phenotypical differences for which skin color quickly became a shorthand. Racecraft explores how that long-reaching epistemological shift was brought about, how it slowly infiltrated people’s reading of human bodies, and how the racialization of blackness was absorbed into early modern European popular cultures. Theater, located within a larger performance culture that permeated everyday life, is a privileged site for analyzing the operations of this epistemological shift. Racecraft argues that, from the beginning of the 16th century to the beginning of the 18th century, the cosmetic, vocal, and kinetic techniques of racial impersonation used by white actors, amateurs, and enthusiasts to represent black characters effected ideological work by fostering new habits of mind among spectators across Europe. This book is based upon my doctoral dissertation, which won the Shakespeare Association of America’s J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Award for 2018.

2019-2020 Courses


Undergraduate: Fall 2019, Representations of Islam in Early Modern England


Selected Publications


Refereed Journal Articles

  • “Rewriting the Grand Siècle: Blackface in Early Modern France and the Historiography of Race.” Literature Compass (Forthcoming).
  • “‘Come Aloft, Jack-Little-Ape’: Race and Dance in The Spanish Gypsie.” English Literary Renaissance 51.1 (2021).
  • “‘Everyone Breeds in His Own Image’: Staging the Aethiopica across the Channel,” Renaissance Drama 44: 2 (2016). 157-186.
  • “Aaron’s Roots: Spaniards, Englishmen, and Blackamoors in Titus Andronicus,Early Theatre 19: 2 (2016). 59-80.

Book Chapters

  • “Race, Capitalism, and Globalization in Titus Andronicus,The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race, edited by Ayanna Thompson. Cambridge University Press. (In press).
  • “Conceptual Knots: Race, Nation, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Culture,” The Cultural History of Race in the Reformation and Enlightenment, 1550-1760 (Vol. 4), Nicholas Hudson ed., Marius Turda general ed. London: Bloomsbury Press. (In press).
  • “Off the Record: Contrapuntal Theatre History.” In Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography, Tracy C. Davis and Peter Marx, eds., 229-248. New York: Routledge, 2020.
  • “Theater of the Mothers: Three Political Plays by Marie NDiaye” In Women Mobilizing Memory: Arts of Intervention, edited by Soledad Falabella, Marianne Hirsch, Jean E. Howard, Banu Karaca, 363-380. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019.
  • “The African Ambassadors’ Travels: Playing Black in Late Seventeenth Century France and Spain.” In Transnational Connections in Early Modern Theatre, edited by M.A. Katritzky and Pavel Drábek, 73-85. Manchester University Press, 2020.
Affiliated Departments and Centers: Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, Department of English