Shakespeare's White Others offers an intriguing premise: studying race in Shakespeare beyond the standard studies of raced characters (Shylock, Othello, Cleopatra) by examining whiteness. Brown carries out this study by distinguishing between the white ideal and the "white other." Its freshness and relevancy are underscored by the striking cover design.
The strength of Brown's argument is the demonstration of the malleability and instability of whiteness as a racial category. I am reminded of how certain raced outsiders can, over time, get folded into whiteness (particularly various European immigrants to early 20th century America). The chapter on Hamlet's failed performance of masculinity as a failure of whiteness is especially well argued. However, the challenge of this argument is that the mode of examination shifts, depending on the play. I'm not sure that equating characters labeled "dark" or "black" due to character flaws to a white other is a sufficient means of categorization. The characters who are then eligible for this study are so wide as to almost be amorphous. While this does mimic the category of whiteness itself, it's a little unwieldy for establishing the argument's typography. Even so, I appreciate this intervention into Shakespeare studies and critical race theory.
A really fascinating analysis of how racial otherness informs understandings of whiteness and white supremacy through modes of the exclusion of white otherness. I thought this was a really succinct analysis and lent a sharp criticism to the much explored theme of race in Shakespeare but through the inversion of whiteness. Will definitely recommend and would be interested in reading more by this author.
I accidentally reviewed another book here! I will edit this review when I finish this book. So sorry!
This was a really fascinating concept in the Shakespeare time-period. The writing works perfectly and I enjoyed the argument about whiteness in Shakespeare. David Sterling Brown writes a great story and I can’t wait to read more from him.
I think I need to read this book again before I can give it a complete review, but my initial response is to be blown away. I haven't read CRT in the context of Shakespeare before, so I had and have a lot to learn, but I feel like this is a good beginning. The notion of the White-Other really rings true to me from personal experience as a disabled white queer female-bodied human who has been in interracial relationships. It was kind of profound to see the othering of white characters and textual blackening of them through the different plays DSB analyzes.
Also, this book's reading of Othello finally opened up that play to me after years of hating for reasons I couldn't articulate. But here we have Iago as "mindfucker," gaslighting the hell out of Othello. Othello as trauma-survivor. Desdemona as White-Other. It makes so much sense to me now. The reading of Hamlet was also interesting. I've read a lot on Hamlet but this is the first time I've seen anyone note how he is blackened textually by the White folk in charge. I think I got less out of the reading of Anthony and Cleopatra because I'm used to a feminist reading of the play, and also it never occurred to me that Shakespeare's audience would conceive her as a Black woman. She was always described as "Greek" in my history and classics courses, and of course in reality while we know her father Ptomely was Greek, we don't know which of his wives or concubines was her mother or what her racial makeup might have been. Greek? Egyptian? Black African? A mix of all three? No one knows. But the play's the thing, so to speak, and I'm not sure I'm fully getting DSB's points about Cleopatra as a negative transgressive figure when I have mostly always seen her as a positive transgressive one. (Again, I need to reread.)
The final chapter is beautifully personal and heartbreaking and makes me wish I could wave a wand to end prejudice and fix the world. I mean, systemic racism is so much bigger than that, I know, but that's where my heart's at.
Highly recommended to Shakespeare scholars.