Joyce Green MacDonald: Disappearing Acts: Black Women In and Out of Early Modern Literature

Publication Date



While the near-absence of black female characters in early modern drama is a near-truism in the field by now, this lack of representation occurred during a period when their labor—domestic, agricultural, sexual—was becoming a prominent support of colonial enterprise in the new world. In this talk, Joyce Green MacDonald, Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, discusses how early modern formations of black female identity survived and were transmuted in later times in the Atlantic world. MacDonald also considers how our current moment may be offering its own versions of black women’s simultaneous invisibility and centrality to ideas of beauty, femininity, and cultural value. Clark University’s Gohar Siddiqui (Screen Studies) offers commentary.

This event continues the Roots of Everything, a lecture series sponsored by Early Modernists Unite (EMU)—a faculty collaborative bringing together scholars of medieval and early modern Europe and America—in conjunction with the Higgins School of Humanities. The series highlights various aspects of modern existence originating in the early modern world by connecting past and present knowledge.


Justin P. Shaw, Clark University


Joyce Green MacDonald, University of Kentucky

Gohar Siddiqui, Clark University

Streaming Media