In English Ethnicity and Race in Early Modern Drama, first published in 2003, Mary Floyd-Wilson outlines what we might call 'scientific' conceptions of racial and ethnic differences in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English writing. Drawing on classical and contemporary medical texts, histories and cosmographies, Floyd-Wilson demonstrates that Renaissance understandings of racial and ethnic identities contradicted many modern stereotypes concerning difference. Southerners, Africans, in particular, were identified as dispassionate, cool-tempered and wise, whereas the more rthern English were understood to be unruly, impressionable and slow-witted. Concerned with the unflattering and constraining implications of this classically derived kwledge, English writers laboured to reinvent ethlogy to their own advantage - a labour that paved the way for the invention of more familiar racial ideas. Floyd-Wilson highlights these English revisionary efforts in her surprising and transformational readings of the period's drama, including Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Jonson's The Masque of Blackness and Shakespeare's Othello and Cymbeline.
Mary Floyd-Wilson is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has published articles in several journals including English Literary Renaissance, Women's Studies, and South Atlantic Review and is a contributing author to British Identities and English Renaissance Literature (2002). She is currently co-editing a volume of essays entitled Reading the Early Modern Passions: A Cultural History of Emotion, University of Pennsylvania Press (forthcoming).