Noémie Ndiaye

Ndiaye Headshot
Associate Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature
Walker 513
Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris. Ph.D., Columbia University, 2017
Teaching at UChicago since 2019
Research Interests: Renaissance Literature | Critical Race Studies | Performance studies | Visual Culture | Comparative Literature | Translation | Cultural Studies | Gender and Sexuality


On leave 2023-2024.

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 first monograph, Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race (University of Pennsylvania Press 2022), I show how performance culture helped strategically turn blackness into a racial category across early modern Western Europe, and 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 sixteenth 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. Scripts of Blackness explores how that long-reaching epistemological shift was brought about, how it slowly infiltrated people’s everyday 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. Scripts of Blackness argues that, from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth 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. Scripts of Blackness won the 2023 Bevington Award (from the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society), the 2023 Rose Mary Crawshay Prize (from The British Academy), the 2023 Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award (from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre), and the 2022 George Freedley Memorial Award (from the Theatre Library Association).

I am the co-editor, with Lia Markey, of the RaceB4Race® volume Seeing Race Before Race: Visual Culture and the Racial Matrix in the Pre-modern World (ACMRS Press, Spring 2023, Open Access), which asks art historians and cultural historians to think together about the racializing regimes operative in premodern visual culture (from 1300 to 1800) through the lens of Critical Race Theory. This book is the catalogue of the exhibition “Seeing Race Before Race” that I co-curated with the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library. This free exhibition is on display until December 30. The catalogue is available in Open Access here. I greatly enjoy collaborating with theatre makers and visual artists, and I do so frequently as part of the “Black Baroque” programming at UChicago.

I am also the guest editor of a forthcoming 2023 special issue of Shakespeare Quarterly on Shakespeare studies, the First Folio, and early modern critical race studies, and I am currently at work on a new monograph tentatively entitled Early Modernity in Black and Brown, which expands my theorization of the racial matrix by focusing on the historical and representational juxtapositions, frictions, and solidarities, between Black people and Jewish, Muslim, Romani, Indigenous, and South/East Asian people in early modernity, in an attempt to disrupt the histories that white supremacy has written of relations between Black and non-Black people of color from early modernity onwards.  



Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race. (University of Pennsylvania Press 2022).  

Seeing Race Before Race: Visual Culture and the Racial Matrix in the Pre-modern World. Collection co-edited with Lia Markey (ACMRS Press 2023). Print and Open Access.  

Refereed Journal Articles  

  • “1623-2023: The First Folio Unbound,” introduction to a special issue of Shakespeare Quarterly. 6,000 words. Forthcoming. 
  • “‘Read it for restoratives’: Pericles and the Romance of Whiteness.” Early Theatre 26.1 (2023): 11-27. 6,000 words. 
  • “Black Roma: Afro-Romani Connections in Early Modern Drama (and Beyond).” Renaissance Quarterly 75.4 (2023). 15,000 words. Winner of the 2022-2023 William Nelson Prize for best article published in Renaissance Quarterly. 
  • “Le corps de la nation: Eros, théâtre, et racialisation au Grand-Siècle.” Thaêtre. Chantier #6: Baroque is burning! (2022). Web.  
  • “Rewriting the Grand Siècle: Blackface in Early Modern France and the Historiography of Race.” Literature Compass 18.10 (2021). Web.  
  • “‘Come Aloft, Jack-Little-Ape’: Race and Dance in The Spanish Gypsie.” English Literary Renaissance 51.1 (2021). 121-151.  
  • “‘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 and Ethnicity: Conceptual Knots 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., 111-126.  London: Bloomsbury Press, 2021.  
  • “Race, Capitalism, and Globalization in Titus Andronicus,” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race, edited by Ayanna Thompson, 158-174. Cambridge University Press, 2021.  
  • “Off the Record: Contrapuntal Theatre History,” The Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography, Tracy C. Davis and Peter Marx, eds., 229-248. New York: Routledge, 2020.  
  • “The African Ambassadors’ Travels: Playing Black in Late Seventeenth Century France and Spain,” Transnational Connections in Early Modern Theatre, edited by M.A. Katritzky and Pavel Drábek, 73-85. Manchester University Press, 2020.  
  • “Theater of the Mothers: Three Political Plays by Marie Ndiaye,” 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.  

You can find some of my publications here.  




Fall 2019, Spring 2021 Representations of Islam in Early Modern England. 

Spring 2021: Black Shakespeare

Fall 2021: Shakespeare I: Histories and Comedies


Fall 2021: Early Modern Critical Race Studies