The Middle East and Central Asia in Early Modern English Drama and Popular Literature

2020-2021 Fall
Faculty Department of Project Supervisor: 
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
Number of Students: 

The project works on how English drama between the sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries featured certain themes, motives, events, persona, etc. from the Islamic world, particularly Iran, Central Asia, and the Ottoman Empire. Operating with the premise that the drama as a popular genre in England was a way for the public to access knowledge about the world in general and broader philosophical or political questions in particular, we will investigate, on one hand, the way the exotic “Other” was constructed in such dramas, and on the other hand, we will also look at how the Islamic world was used by dramatists and the audience to formulate certain debates in the period, such as the public discussion about the idea of the absolute monarchy, the relationship between faith and reason, etc. In addition to the well-known pieces, such as Christopher Marlowe’s Tamerlane the Great or Shakespeare’s Othello, we will also look at lesser known dramas, too.
In the first part of the project, students will construct a database of the relevant dramas, their editions, and the scholarly literature about them. In the second part, they will try to map out how in certain cases the playwright might have learned about the Islamic world.
Students interested in global connected history, English literature, or Orientalism are particularly encouraged to apply.

Related Areas of Project: 
Cultural Studies