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Racial Prosthesis: Shakespearean Properties of Whiteness


“Racial Prosthesis: Shakespearean Properties of Whiteness” explores the early modern English theater’s use of prosthetic devices to depict race onstage. I argue the theater’s broadly conceived racializing technologies materialize a racial whiteness hidden beneath those masks. When characters who apply blackface remove these prosthetics, they substantiate their whiteness as natural and biological. Drawing on work in early modern race studies, disability studies, and critical whiteness studies, this dissertation uncovers narrative, historical, ideological, and racial properties of Shakespearean whiteness. Across a range of plays—the Henriad, King Lear, Titus Andronicus, and Othello—I examine Shakespeare’s engagements with English, British, and Roman myths and histories, revealing how the logic of racial prosthesis enables the imagination of futures predicated upon the genealogical reproduction of white supremacist racial orders.

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