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Images of book covers by Valerie Fazel, Cora Fox, Bradley Irish, Daniel Najork and Ayanna Thompson

Happy ‘pub’ days: Fazel, Fox, Irish, Najork, Thompson


Kristen LaRue-Sandler

As a warm-up for Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23, here’s a book-day celebration in honor of our medieval and Renaissance scholars. Five faculty members in the Department of English at ASU are introducing new books that explore issues relevant to pre-modern as well as contemporary eras, covering Old Norse Icelandic, racism in performance practices, and just about everything in between (including, of course, the Bard himself).


Variable Objects: Shakespeare and Speculative Appropriation (Edinburgh University Press, 2021)

Valerie Fazel and Louise Geddes edited this essay collection examining Shakespeare fragments as agents of appropriation. From the publisher:

Drawing on new materialism and object-oriented ontology, Variable Objects proposes that Shakespeare is a vibrant object replete with a variable energy that accounts for its infinite meaning-making capacity. Using critical race theory, object oriented feminism, performance studies, Global Shakespeares, media studies and game theory, the collection’s essays explore the dialogic relationship between the Shakespeare object and its appropriation. Each chapter demonstrates that instead of moving away from the source of appropriation, an object-oriented approach can centralise Shakespeare without the constraints of outdated notions of fidelity. Highlighting the variable materiality inherent in Shakespeare, the collection foregrounds the political ecologies of literary objects as a new methodology for adaptation studies.

Fazel is an instructor in English at ASU, where she also received her BA, MA, and PhD in English in 2001, 2007, and 2013, respectively.


Positive Emotions in Early Modern Literature and Culture (Manchester University Press, 2021)

Cora Fox, Bradley J. Irish, and Cassie M. Miura are the editors of this volume that explores representations of “happiness” in Renaissance literature. From the publisher:

What did it mean to be happy in early modern Europe? Positive Emotions in Early Modern Literature and Culture includes essays that reframe historical understandings of emotional life in the Renaissance, focusing on under-studied feelings such as mirth, solidarity, and tranquillity. Methodologically diverse and interdisciplinary, these essays draw from the history of emotions, affect theory and the contemporary social and cognitive sciences to reveal rich and sustained cultural attention in the early modern period to these positive feelings. The book also highlights culturally distinct negotiations of the problematic binary between what constitutes positive and negative emotions. A comprehensive introduction and afterword open multiple paths for research into the histories of good feeling and their significances for understanding present constructions of happiness and wellbeing.

Fox and Irish are both associate professors of English in literature at ASU.


Reading the Old Norse-Icelandic ‘Maríu saga’ in Its Manuscript Contexts (Medieval Institute Publications/De Gruyter, 2021)

Daniel C. Najork is the author of this monograph in the press’s The Northern Medieval World: On the Margins of Europe series. From the publisher:

Maríu saga, the Old Norse-Icelandic life of the Virgin Mary, survives in nineteen manuscripts. While the 1871 edition of the saga provides two versions based on multiple manuscripts and prints significant variants in the notes, it does not preserve the literary and social contexts of those manuscripts. In the extant manuscripts Maríu saga rarely exists in the codex by itself. This study restores the saga to its manuscript contexts in order to better understand the meaning of the text within its manuscript matrix, why it was copied in the specific manuscripts it was, and how it was read and used by the different communities that preserved the manuscripts.

Najork is a faculty associate in English at ASU, where he also earned his PhD in English in 2014.


The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Ayanna Thompson edited this volume in the Cambridge Companions to Literature series. From the publisher:

The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race shows teachers and students how and why Shakespeare and race are inseparable. Moving well beyond Othello, the collection invites the reader to understand racialized discourses, rhetoric, and performances in all of Shakespeare's plays, including the comedies and histories. Race is presented through an intersectional approach with chapters that focus on the concepts of sexuality, lineage, nationality, and globalization. The collection helps students to grapple with the unique role performance plays in constructions of race by Shakespeare (and in Shakespearean performances), considering both historical and contemporary actors and directors. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race will be the first book that truly frames Shakespeare studies and early modern race studies for a non-specialist, student audience.


Blackface (Bloomsbury, 2021)

Also from Thompson: a New Statesman essential non-fiction book of 2021 on the history and evolution of a racist performance practice. From the publisher:

Why are there so many examples of public figures, entertainers, and normal, everyday people in blackface? And why aren't there as many examples of people of color in whiteface? This book explains what blackface is, why it occurred, and what its legacies are in the 21st century. There is a filthy and vile thread—sometimes it's tied into a noose—that connects the first performances of Blackness on English stages, the birth of blackface minstrelsy, contemporary performances of Blackness, and anti-Black racism. Blackface examines that history and provides hope for a future with new performance paradigms.

Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.

Thompson is Regents Professor of English at ASU, where she also directs the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. To note: Thompson will discuss the book in conversation with ASU students and faculty as part of the ASU TomorrowTalks series on April 15.