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I saw Othello’s visage in his mind: Visualizing Othello in Nineteenth-Century British Theatre

Thursday Lecture Series

dateDecember 8, 2022 timeThursday, 12:15pm–1:45pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Painting of Ira Aldridge in costume as Othello

The Society of Fellows hosts the Thursday Lecture Series (TLS), which runs regularly throughout the academic year. The Fall Semester TLS, our Fellows present their own work, chaired by Columbia faculty.

"I saw Othello’s visage in his mind': Visualizing Othello in Nineteenth-Century British Theatre"

Lecture by Atesede R. Makonnen
Chaired by Joseph Howley

This lecture explores the performance of race through illustrations and portraits of two famous Othellos: Edmund Kean, the British actor who tried to ‘whiten’ the character, and Ira Aldridge, the ground-breaking African American actor who attempted to conquer Othello. Both Kean and Aldridge worked as actors with careers spanning black and white parts; for both, Othello presented challenges around agency and racial identity. Kean, it seems, could not escape Othello’s blackness, and Aldridge could not escape Othello. How does Othello act as a site of identity creation and identity limitation? How do illustrations, exhibitions, and academic narratives contribute to that creation and limitation? Despite their attempts to control race on stage, Kean and Aldridge met with spectators whose visual processing of their performances forced them back into familiar racial identities.

This event also will be recorded. By being electronically present, you consent to the SOF/Heyman using such video for promotional purposes.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.