"The Law Shall Touch You": Psychological Profiling, Race, and Marlowe's The Jew of Malta 


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Instructor: Abstract:

Lisa Barksdale-Shaw, JD, PhD is the current Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center.In this talk, Dr. Barksdale-Shaw confronts how the examination of early modern English renaissance characters in a sixteenth-century drama recovers, remembers, and recovers race in a way that belies the well-crafted narrative in Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta. Removing him from the margins of this tragedy, she centers Ithadore, a captured and enslaved Turk, who serves as the figure through which she studies the legal repercussions of the violence that surrounds him. As a way to read the character, Dr. Barksdale-Shaw assesses his potential sociopathy and analyzes how the narrative of the play “prosecutes” or makes judgments against the behavior of Ithadore. To determine his relationship to the world, she also considers the dynamics between trauma and the master-servant relationship exists in his role as a bondsman. Further complicating these psychological and legal assessments, Dr. Barksdale-Shaw compares the agency of Marlowe’s Ithadore and Shakespeare’s Aaron the Moor from Titus Andronicus. Overall, this case study offers a way to expand how we contemplate contemporary social relationships, racial capitalism, and labor agreements on the global stage.   

Lisa M. Barksdale-Shaw, JD, PhD, is a visiting assistant professor in James Madison College’s Humanities, Culture, and Writing. She completed her law degree at the University of Michigan Law School and her doctoral degree from Michigan State University. Professor Barksdale-Shaw’s scholarly specialization examines the narrative of justice, by combining several disciplines, including law, literature, and medicine. In her work, she foregrounds evidence and criminology, litigation practices and procedure, trial advocacy, material culture, stage properties and performance, racial trauma, ethics, state actors, and the history of law. Professor Barksdale-Shaw is a past recipient of several fellowships and grants, where as a graduate student, she was awarded the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship and as a post-doctoral fellow, the Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA. She has published in Routledge’s “Material Readings in Early Modern Culture” series (2018) and The Renaissance Quarterly (2019). Most recently, she also published an article on the South African land reform, entitled “Did not great Julius bleed for justice’ sake?”: Examining a Theory of Social Justice Through Will-Making in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar," in a special issue for the journal, Shakespeare in Southern Africa. Professor Barksdale-Shaw is working on several research projects, specifically on written evidence, conspiracy and racial trauma. Using Critical Race Theory, Professor Barksdale-Shaw teaches her students how to read law, literature, culture, and race as they critique narratives of justice domestically and globally. 

Format: Videocast and Audio Podcast

Continuing Education Credits Authorized: 1

Learning Objectives

Evaluate legal and psychological profiles for the presented case study.
Compare an alternative profile with the case study.
Identify methods to connect historical case study with contemporary models.

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