Political Afterlives of The Tempest

Set on an unknown island ruled by a tyrant who wields his power over the land’s indigenous inhabitants, Shakespeare’s The Tempest thematizes issues of colonization, exploitation, and dispossession. In this course, we will explore how multicultural authors ‘talk back’ to Shakespeare through reinterpretations and appropriations of The Tempest. Putting poems and other textual revisions in conversation with the Shakespearean original, we will consider how authors of Caribbean and South Asian descent revive and revise Shakespeare to assert their own national identities, dismantle colonial logics, and forward strategic political visions. Why, for example, does Caliban ‘clap back’ to Prospero with “Uhuru,” the Swahili cry for freedom, in Aimé Césaire’s Caribbean adaptation of the play? To what effect does the South Asian poet, Suniti Namjoshi, present Sycorax’s return to the island after Prospero’s exodus? Pursuing these and other questions, we will brainstorm ways to encourage students to imagine other revisions of The Tempest and to put Shakespeare in conversation with Black Lives Matter and other contemporary anti-racism movements.