With thanks to the members of the Association who forwarded suggestions, the Nominating Committee of the Shakespeare Association of America, chaired by Jane Hwang Degenhardt (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) including Marissa Greenberg (University of New Mexico), Penelope H. Geng (Macalester College), and Kirsten N. Mendoza (University of Dayton) presents the following candidates for office in 2024:
Katie Brokaw is associate professor of English at University of California, Merced and co-founding artistic director of Shakespeare in Yosemite. She authored Shakespeare and Community Performance (2023) and Staging Harmony: Music and Religious Change in Late Medieval and Early Modern English Drama (2016), which won the David Bevington Prize. In 2012, the dissertation upon which it was based won SAA’s J. Leeds Barroll Prize. She edited the Arden Performance edition of Macbeth, co-edited Shakespeare and Secular Transactions in the Age of Shakespeare, and published several essays on eco-Shakespeare and early modern drama. She is co-founder of the EarthShakes Alliance, co-organized Globe4Globe: Shakespeare and the Climate Emergency with Shakespeare’s Globe, and has been a plenary speaker for the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA). At UC Merced, she has been department chair and co-created an undergraduate major in Environmental Humanities. For the SAA, she has chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on Conference Futures (2022-present), organized panels for 2021 and 2018 and co-led a seminar in 2015.
SAA has been my intellectual home since 2008, and I am honored to be considered for the Board of Trustees. My primary aims for the SAA are making it as accessible as possible and reducing its environmental impact. These goals are of a piece with my current work as scholar, teacher, artist, and activist, which is primarily focused on how to leverage Shakespearean adaptation for environmental advocacy, and on making Shakespeare accessible and empowering to people traditionally marginalized from the stage and academy. I also consider myself a scholar-practitioner, and have long been interested in bringing more theatre artists to the SAA: multiple theatre directors presented at both SAA panels I organized, and I helped bring Lisa Wolpe’s one-woman show to the 2018 SAA meeting.
I have spent the last year and a half chairing the SAA Conference Futures committee, which has been tasked with researching and reporting on models for future conferences. My work on the SAA Conference Futures committee has included authoring reports that synthesize membership survey findings with the committee’s research, meeting with the current trustees, and communicating with the SAA’s travel agent about hotel capacities and the affordability and environmental impact of various potential host cities. This work has given me insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the SAA that I’d carry with me into my work on the board should I be elected. Our committee has proposed steps the SAA can take to make our conferences more environmentally and financially sustainable while being as inviting as possible to current and potential members. These include ideas such as making in-person conferences as affordable as possible, models for remote engagement with the conference and other networking, and proposals for making the scholarship generated by SAA members available to broader publics through things like podcasts and YouTube.
If elected to the board, I would look forward to using the SAA Conference Futures committee’s recommendations to propose new organizational models that balance the needs of its diverse membership and bring in new scholarly and artistic voices and generate both in-person and online opportunities for engagement. Together we can ensure that the SAA continues to create and enrich Shakespearean scholarly and artistic communities for generations to come.
Urvashi Chakravarty is Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto and researches and teaches on early modern literature and critical race studies, queer studies, and the history of slavery. Her first book, Fictions of Consent: Slavery, Servitude, and Free Service in Early Modern England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022), explores the ideologies of slavery in early modern England, and was awarded the SAA’s 2023 First Book Award as well as the 2023 Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize for the best book in Renaissance studies from the Renaissance Society of America. She co-edited a special issue of New Literary History on “Race and Periodization” and is currently working on a monograph on the construction of racialized gender and racial futurity in the contexts of early modern slavery and imperialism; she is also editing A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Arden Shakespeare Fourth Series. Her essays and articles appear in a number of journals and edited collections, including Shakespeare Quarterly, English Literary Renaissance, Renaissance Quarterly, and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Race. She is an Executive Board member of RaceB4Race and co-organized the conference RaceB4Race: Genealogies in Toronto in September 2022; in addition, she is a RaceB4Race Mentor in the Mentorship Network. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the MLA LLC Shakespeare Forum and on the Editorial Board of Shakespeare Quarterly. For the SAA, she has served on the Program Committee for 2021, on the Local Arrangements Committee for 2019, and on the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Harassment Policy in 2015. She co-led a seminar in 2020, is co-leading another in 2024, and was a panel speaker in 2018 and 2022.
The SAA has been an intellectual home for me ever since my first conference in 2009. I’ve learned a great deal about new directions in the field from seminars and panels, and about organizational questions and structures from serving on its committees, especially the Program Committee and the Committee on Sexual Harassment Policy. Just as importantly, I’ve learned about possibilities for change from seeing how the organization has evolved since I first joined as a graduate student: the SAA is bigger, more international than ever, and more attuned to the needs of graduate students and early career scholars, contingent scholars, scholars of colour, and marginalized scholars. For many of us, the SAA is our favourite conference, whose value lies in its particular admixture of regular community, robust intellectual exchange, and precious engagement and conversation with our writing and ideas.
But there is work still to be done, especially when it comes to expanding the horizons of the SAA. How do we ensure that the work we cherish as teachers and scholars and practitioners reaches the next generation of undergraduate students as well as graduate students? What would make the SAA an even more welcoming global and international community? How do we build a SAA that is more accessible, particularly in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, that is also available to those who cannot travel as well as to the significant majority of members who have limited or no research support? How do we reckon with the environmental impact of conference travel?
I particularly hope to think further about how to make the SAA a community that supports and is valuable for graduate students, for contingent faculty, for scholars not located in academic institutions, for scholars outside the Global North. At a time when the humanities are under greater threat than ever, it’s imperative to make the case for the work we do in broad disciplinary and global contexts, to think with our colleagues in primary and secondary education, and with theatre practitioners and creators, not just to preserve but to expand and strengthen the SAA for the next generation. I am especially committed to the practice of racial equity at the heart of any changes the SAA seeks to implement. As a scholar of colour who works on Premodern Critical Race Studies, matters of racial justice remain paramount, and if elected as a Trustee I would endeavour to do all I can to ensure that even as the SAA supports and platforms innovative scholarly work—on race, Indigeneity, trans studies, (a)sexuality, disability, environmental justice, and more—we firmly honour our commitment to the communities at the forefront of such questions and who are most deeply affected by them.
Simone Chess is Associate Professor of English, Director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program, and inaugural Director of the new Center for Gender and Sexuality at Wayne State University in Detroit. She is author of Male-to-Female Crossdressing in Early Modern English Literature: Gender, Performance, and Queer Relations (2016) and coeditor, with Colby Gordon and Will Fisher, the special issue “Early Modern Trans Studies” for JEMCS (2019). Chess is currently working on two book projects, one on Shakespeare and trans culture for the Routledge “Spotlight on Shakespeare” series and another on early modern disability, queerness, and adaptive technologies. With Sawyer Kemp, she is co-editing a volume on early modern trans drama. She serves on the editorial boards of Shakespeare Quarterly, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. For the SAA she was a plenary speaker in 2019; organized seminars in 2010, 2016, 2017, and 2020, presented a digital exhibit in 2021; and served on the Innovative Article Award Committee in 2021 and the SAA Nominations Committee in 2022.
SAA changed the course of my career—even my life—more than once. I know I’m not alone in this. SAA is an incubator: the conference holds space for works-in-progress shared for the first time in seminars; for graduate students first encountering the profession and more senior scholars finding new ways to connect to it; for emerging fields within our field; and for conversations and arguments about the ideas and values that do or should shape our part of the profession. Simultaneously, even as SAA is an incubator for some of the most tender and important parts of our work, it is also an amplifier—the scale and scope and prominence of this organization means that its priorities are understood to reflect and represent the priorities of Shakespeare studies and early modern studies more broadly. This means that what happens at SAA matters, not only because of the individual stakes for our own little papers and panels and seminars but also because of the bigger communal stakes of our cumulative work. The standards that the organization articulates and models influence the directions taken by journals and academic presses, the priorities articulated in job ads, the mentorship in our graduate programs, and the evolution of our undergraduate curricula.
When we come together through SAA, we decide together what kind of profession we want to have, and it’s critically important that we get it right. This takes continued and committed work to make it more accessible, more inclusive, more welcoming to marginalized and contingent participants, more accountable to the evolving needs of the broadest range of participants. I said that SAA changed my career, and that’s because it taught me that I had an administrative talent helping to build communities— I’ve been privileged to be in the literal seminar room for pivotal moments in early modern trans studies, asexuality studies, and disability studies, for example. So many critical areas of early modern studies have become possible because SAA incubated the work, gave us space and time and resources for it; and then amplified it, helping clusters of scholars to grow into real fields of research and teaching. If selected for the board, I would bring what I’ve learned as a community-oriented scholar and administrator to help protect, improve, and extend SAA’s incubating and amplifying reach so that we get to keep building the field we want to have, together.
Timothy Francisco (He/Him) is Professor of English at Youngstown State University and Director of the Center for Working Class Studies. He is outgoing Chair of the Community Foundation of The Mahoning Valley, an $80 million philanthropy focused on social determinants of health, and serves on the board of The Buckeye Flame, Ohio’s LGBTQ+ journalism collective. He hosts a public affairs program on an NPR affiliate and co-founded a forum for civic engagement and a statewide student-run accountability journalism project. He has facilitated community conversations on topics such as gun violence, local elections, and the resettlement of refugees. He teaches Shakespeare, working-class, and LGBTQ+ literatures, and has published on Shakespeare, Marlowe, journalism education, and US politics, and journalism on a range of topics. He co-edited Shakespeare and the 99% (2019) and is communications lead on a $10 million NSF grant for equity for Black, Latina/o/e and Indigenous students in STEM. For the SAA, he led a seminar in 2021, co-led a seminar in 2016, organized a panel for 2024, served on the Program Committee for 2019 and the Nominating Committee for 2021.
Reviewing Shakespeare and the 99%, which I co-edited (2019), Jim Shapiro wrote, “there is now more to be gained than lost by challenging a profession unwilling to acknowledge disparities in ‘income, power, and prestige’,” and, as relevant, that “the myriad challenges now faced by faculty at non-elite schools are likely to be visited soon upon those who teach at research universities.” Likely may be today—institutions are closing, departments are shrinking, and assaults on faculty autonomy and the exchange of ideas are being codified into state laws—and one might discern a kind of “trickle up” economy, as the conditions that have long been routine for academics at lower-tier intuitions become increasingly normalized.
Like the broader discipline of literary studies for which Shakespeare often stands, SAA is at an important juncture, when the work we do is more vital than ever and the organization crucial for advancing the intellectual, social, political and material welfare of members.
My bio reflects my vision. My career at an access university, in one of most economically disenfranchised regions in the US, has taught me the importance of coalition building for organizations invested in public good to achieve any kind of social or political change. For example, as chair of our region’s community foundation, I was part of its realignment through equity-centered audits of all processes, procedures, and resource allocations, with a goal of equitable and anti-racist philanthropy. I’ve co-created and executed other important community engagement and public initiatives in politics, advocacy, and accountability, and I consult with non-profits.
SAA benefits from responsive leadership listening, and translating into action and policy, the concerns of an ever-shifting membership, and it’s imperative to keep this momentum, while also thinking strategically about our position as an “anchor” for the discipline.
To do this, we must reimagine our profession and place within it, knowing that many of the practices upon which both have rested—research, peer review, publishing, and public engagement –have been organized, evaluated, and prioritized around a model of Shakespeare studies now unsustainable without change.
SAA can continue as a resource for a community dedicated to advancing intellectual inquiry, transformative teaching, and social change, and grow through linkages with public education, organized labor, and philanthropy, and I’ve worked with each of these in various capacities. I will bring my skills as a practitioner of strategic planning, collective impact change-making, and advocacy to SAA.
Erin E. Kelly is an associate professor in the department of English at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, where she has been a faculty member since 2009. (She previously held faculty positions at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, and at University of Georgia.) Her publications include chapters and articles that began as essays for SAA seminars, including discussions of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Middleton’s Revenger’s Tragedy, and Woodes’s Conflict of Conscience. She is particularly interested in early Tudor drama and other plays too often forsaken by Shakespeare-centric research projects. She has served as an associate editor of the journal Early Theatre since 2011. For the SAA she led a seminar in 2023 and co-led a seminar in 2020.
I attended my first SAA conference in 1997 as a graduate student volunteering at the registration desk. My recollection is that I heard some excellent papers. I also remember feeling like an interloper: too junior, too uninterested in only Shakespeare, and too awkward to be a part of this group of scholars.
Since that time, SAA has happily changed in ways that enable more people to come together to ask a wider range of questions. The 1997 conference program lists one seminar on Marlowe and two on “Shakespeare and His Contemporaries,” but there were even more on single Shakespeare plays. More recent conference meetings show that SAA has developed into a home for work on early modern drama, theatre history, and performance studies more generally. I am grateful for opportunities to participate in seminars that welcome papers on weird and obscure plays.
My first SAA also programmed paper sessions that featured mostly senior scholars. Since that time, I have learned much about gender, sexuality, and critical race theory from innovative seminars and excellent NextGenPlen presentations. SAA is now a conference where I know I will be inspired by a range of perspectives, and my teaching and ability to support graduate students – not to mention my own research and editing work – is better for these experiences.
The positive changes I have witnessed did not happen by chance. Members of the Board of Trustees and the SAA’s officers have worked hard to make this organization more welcoming, innovative, and diverse. If I am elected to be a member of the Board, I would continue and build upon their efforts.
In addition to upholding the values that make SAA a place where I now hope a graduate student will be less intimidated, I want to prioritize projects to make this organization even more accessible. COVID forced us to experience the possibilities and limits of online seminars, and I know there are important benefits to a face-to-face conference. And yet we could offer sessions that allow for participation by those who cannot travel – those who are disabled, those with care responsibilities, and the increasing number of members who because they are precariously employed or working at financially strapped institutions, cannot afford flights and hotel rooms. We must now consider online sessions, asynchronous sessions, and sessions on dates outside of the annual meeting as opportunities to include more voices. I also look forward to finding ways to bring the work we do to broader audiences, especially high school teachers and members of the general public.
Like all scholarly organizations, SAA finds itself in challenging times, but we also have an opportunity to improve upon a tradition of providing a locus for many people to come together to do work that none of us can do entirely our own, continuing a rich and expansive conversation around Shakespeare.
Nedda Mehdizadeh is Continuing Lecturer in Writing Programs at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her scholarly contributions include work on the Global Renaissance, Premodern Critical Race Studies, and Shakespeare Studies. She is co-author of Anti-Racist Shakespeare (2023), published by Cambridge University Press in the Elements in Shakespeare and Pedagogy series. She is currently working on her first monograph, Translating Persia in Early Modern English Writing, which centers on the complex transnational encounters between Persia’s Safavid natives and their English visitors. Her work has appeared in Exemplaria, Shakespeare Quarterly, and Journal of American Studies, among other journals and collections. She has held a range of research fellowships, including at the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Clark Andrews Memorial Library. In addition to her academic work, she also owns and runs an Academic and Career Success coaching business, Daena Coaching, LLC, through which she supports academics and professionals as they identify sustaining and meaningful pathways toward successful and fulfilling careers within or beyond academia. For the SAA she co-led seminars in 2021 and 2022 and served on the Diversity Ad Hoc committee (2019-2020).
The SAA has been an intellectual and collegial home for me since I attended my first seminar as a graduate student. Over the years, the organization has demonstrated its commitment to evolving with the changing landscape of academia by broadening the scope of its offerings, increasing opportunities for mentorship and support, and developing methods of improving accessibility and inclusivity. In addition to expanding their programming, SAA continues to encourage meaningful connection between scholars from various backgrounds, affiliations, ranks, and experiences. If I am elected as an SAA trustee, I would be delighted to contribute to these evolving initiatives as well as spearhead new ones, especially at this moment in our profession. As a result of the seismic shifts that humanistic study has experienced over the last decade, academics are being called to reimagine the field and to envision its future. I have sought to follow this call in my work not only as contingent faculty who chooses to maintain an active research agenda despite my teaching appointment but also as the owner of my own Academic and Career Success coaching business, Daena Coaching, LLC. My experience has prepared me to represent and advocate for the significant number of teacher-scholars whose positions in academia remains precarious.
I’ve always believed that our degrees and our training (in the Humanities more broadly as well as our expertise in early modern studies and Shakespeare studies) positions us well for a diverse set of professional routes, inside and beyond academia. My central aim as trustee would be both to promote a more inclusive and expanded way of understanding what it means to be an academic and to use my knowledge and expertise as a coach to develop programming that supports academics in thinking more expansively about their academic and professional trajectories, wherever they may lead. I envision collaborating with fellow-trustees on projects and events that give members opportunities to learn more about careers beyond the university; to strategize ways they can diversify and translate their skills, expertise, and interests into other professional arenas (whether through full-time positions or side businesses or projects); to facilitate more support networks for those on the job market (broadly speaking); to cooperate with established scholars on ways they can support and coach their students and mentees to these ends; to increase networking opportunities, including teaching networking strategies; and more. I look forward to this opportunity to work with my peers at the SAA to cultivate a more inclusive, affirming, and hopeful atmosphere in our organization.
Deadline: 15 February 2024