Critical Special Collections Librarianship

Critical Library Studies and Critical Information Literacy

Renewed discussions in the fields of English literary and historical scholarship

Twitter hashtag conversations: #MedievalTwitter #ShakeRace #RaceB4Race #LitPOC #BIPOC18 #Bigger6 #VicPOC #POC19 #blackintheivory #RBSBlackPrintCulture #RBSOnline #CiteBlackWomenInLIS #CritArch


“The inaugural RaceB4Race conference emerged as a collaboration between the Medievalists of Color (MOC) and the ShakeRace (Shakespeare and Race) community, groups that were both seeking to push their fields in new archival, theoretical, methodological, pedagogical, and practical directions….In the end, the inaugural RaceB4Race event demonstrated to the world how our understandings of periodization, historicity and even academic disciplines can become more expansive once race is acknowledged as a viable lens of investigation.”

The Bigger 6 Collective

“We are literary and cultural critics whose commitment to anti-racist and anti-colonial politics grounds our study of the global 18th and 19th centuries and their long (after)lives. We endeavor to effect structural changes in our discipline and institutions by promoting scholarly and creative work by historically marginalized people, those excluded from the Romantic canon, and those excluded from the field of Romanticism.”

Kimberly Anne Coles, Kim F. Hall, and Ayanna Thompson. “BlacKKKShakespearean: A Call to Action for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.” MLA Profession.

“With immense pain, scholars of medieval and early modern literature, history, and culture have had to acknowledge that our fields of study are not politically neutral. The colonial project is stitched in and through the language and literatures of the pre- and early modern periods; the politics and economics that ultimately produced settler colonialism, chattel slavery, the forced migration of peoples, and the development of the British empire animate these early English texts. If more faculty members do not confront this history, we may actually be aiding those whose political, cultural, and social beliefs many of us find personally abhorrent and intellectually bankrupt.”

M. Rambaran-Olm. “Anglo-Saxon Studies [Early English Studies], Academia and White Supremacy.”, June 27, 2018.

“Early English studies implies white, traditional and conservative and its current stars in the field often champion this representation. The field will not remedy itself if, at its core, it attracts white supremacists and/or continues to reject people from marginalized communities that offer new possibilities and promise to a dying field. Altogether, a more diverse set of scholars specializing in early medieval England would be more likely to explore ‘different’ angles, and other stories like them; thus broadening our understanding of the period in the process.”

Brandy C. Williams. “On Building a #ShakeRace ‘Canon.’”, January 18, 2020.

Downloadable syllabus, “#ShakeRace: An Introductory Guide.” “Since this conversation is dominated by scholars who teach, it only makes sense to turn our attention to our pedagogy and ask how we are teaching these works and how we should be teaching these works, given the present state of the field and the world. That’s why I elected to generate a syllabus. As a student, the syllabus is my guideline, my starting place, but not my end-all-be-all for a course. Likewise, the #ShakeRace Syllabus should be viewed in the same way. This guide proposes general frameworks of progression for thinking about Early Modern Critical Race Studies with specific attention to Shakespeare. My goal is to invite as many collaborators as possible to crowdsource the growth of the document, including objects beyond scholarly articles and monographs—things like performances, public humanities projects like the Qualities of Mercy project, and others. This is a public document that I hope will serve as a mini-archive and starting point for anyone interested in Early Modern Critical Race Studies, recognizing our past, our present, and our future.”

Ruben Espinosa. “A Darker Shade of Shakespeare.” Shakespeare’s Globe, August 23, 2020.

“What we have witnessed in the act of kneeling, when it is on the neck of a Black man, is our racist, violent history and the deep danger and absolute monstrosity of elevating whiteness. In my corner of the world, brown children are separated from their families at the border and caged in for-profit detention centers. What, you might ask, do these racist realities have to do with Shakespeare? Well, if the likes of Johnson can claim him to promote white supremacy (that is, the perpetuation of systems that benefit white people at the expense of people of color), perhaps we can use him to pursue anti-racist efforts. Johnson’s version of Shakespeare is tired, old, and white. This darker shade of Shakespeare that is emerging is so much more vibrant, so much more powerful, and full of the potential for change.”

Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, Amy R. Wong. “Undisciplining Victorian Studies.” LA Review of Books, July 10, 2020.

This essay challenges the racism that undergirds Victorian Studies and maintains it, demographically, as an almost entirely white field. Victorian Studies (VS), which examines the literature and culture of Britain in the period roughly defined by Queen Victoria’s reign (1837–1901), a period concurrent with the heyday of the British Empire, stands in a special position: it is one of the most enduring bastions of the fantasy of an unmarked universality. By this we mean it is emblematic of a broader ideological effort to demarcate the “racial” from the “nonracial” (as if such a category could exist).