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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Travelling Knowledge and Trans*textuality. African Sources in Shakespearean Drama

Travelling Knowledge and Trans*textuality. African Sources in Shakespearean Drama

Project leaders:



The project seeks to investigate, for the first time, whether and how African (and Middle Eastern) textualities have influenced the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Its task is to identify, contextualise and interpret the impact of African and also Middle Eastern textualities on selected plays mainly by William Shakespeare. It is innovative also in exploring how African narratives, visual arts, and performative practices are likely to have travelled to Elizabethan England, and how such pathways can be proven and understood. The object of study is textualities that travel rhizomically and partly orally, influencing a text without an author’s being necessarily aware thereof (“re*source”), thus transgressing the category of
written “source”. This interacts with “trans*textuality” (Arndt), which theorises the rhizomic pattern of travelling textualities and knowledges. Based on TransArea Literary Studies, the project reconfigures the Eurocentric focus of Shakespeare
(source) studies. Susan Arndt will work on theoretical frames and conceptual pillars to reconfigure Shakespeare source studies from within reconfigured African Studies, overcoming their Europe-centred purview. Michael Steppat will work on text transmission, i.e. processes of how texts come to emerge in various shapes at certain times. A post-doctoral project studies Yoruba orature and in particular Ifá divination, for its transmission via the Atlantic or Mediterranean to London (Ifeoluwa Aboluwade). It is complemented by an outsourced PhD thesis that traces the travelling of textualities from Persia via the Ottoman Empire to London (Taghrid Elhanafy). Arndt will author a monograph on African knowledge and negotiations of whiteness in Shakespeare’s work. Moreover, the project leaders will each write one peer-reviewed article to be submitted to Shakespeare Survey. The project will be inaugurated with a workshop that gathers core and affiliated researchers and concluded with two outreach events as well as an international conference to feed into a collectively authored book titled “Knowledge and Trans*textuality: African & Middle Eastern Sources and Shakespearean Drama”.

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