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Phyllis Rackin Lecture
  • Wednesday, March 1, 2023 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm


It is our pleasure to announce the 2023 Phyllis Rackin Lecture:

Professor Valerie Traub: "Racializing Subjectivity in 17th Century Erotic Narrative"

Ovidian-inspired erotic epyllia and their pornographic progeny play an important role in the early modern construction of racial whiteness. Francis Beaumont’s narrative verse Salmacis and Hermaphroditus (1602) and A Dialogue Between a Married Lady and a Maid (c. 1684) illustrate how blushing, a bodily phenomenon that early moderns preemptively denied to those with dark skin, became an index of white desire and white desirability. Insofar as they racialize sexuality while sexualizing racial difference, these erotic texts contribute to white racial assemblaging, whereby an affectively self-reflexive subject of erotic desire is composed as generically, in its bodily essence, white.

Valerie Traub is the Adrienne Rich Distinguished University Professor of English and Women's & Gender Studies; Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of English and Women's & Gender Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research concerns gender, sexuality, empire, and race in early modern England. She is the author of Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns (2015) and The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England, both of which won the best book awards from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. Other books include Desire & Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (1992).  She is the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Embodiment and three co-edited collections: Ovidian Transversions: "Iphis and Ianthe," 1300-1650,  Feminist Readings of Early Modern Culture: Emerging Subjects, and Gay Shame.  She is currently at work on another project on discourses of gender, sexuality, race, and class in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century anatomical and cartographic illustrations, entitled Mapping Normality in the Early Modern West. She is the recipient of the John D’Arms Award for graduate mentoring and the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.

The Phyllis Rackin Lecture

The Phyllis Rackin lecture was established to honor Phyllis Rackin, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Pennsylvania and her groundbreaking work in the fields of both feminist scholarship and Early Modern studies. A former President of the Shakespeare Association of America, she has published numerous scholarly articles on Shakespeare and related subjects in anthologies and in such journals as PMLAShakespeare Quarterly, and Shakespeare-Jahrbuch. She has also published four books on Shakespeare: Shakespeare's Tragedies; Stages of History: Shakespeare's English Chronicles; and Engendering a Nation: A Feminist Account of Shakespeare's English Histories, which she wrote in collaboration with Professor Jean Howard of Columbia University; and Shakespeare and Women. Her awards include an ACLS fellowship and a Lindback award for distinguished teaching.

This annual lecture is made possible thanks to the generous support of the English Department's Premodern Studies Seminar and the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies.

Zoom Information

Meeting ID: 974 6702 1789
Passcode: 212491

Organizers: George Perez & Nat Rivkin