Professor Natasha Korda, pictured here in London, is an expert on the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Natasha Korda, professor of English, professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality studies. Korda’s book, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in September 2011. She also co-edited a book, Working Subjects in Early Modern English Drama, published by Ashgate in February 2011.
Q: Professor Korda, you’ve taught English and gender studies at Wesleyan since 1995, and you were promoted to full professor in 2010. What courses do you teach and what are your scholarship interests?
A: My area of expertise is Renaissance literature and culture, particularly the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and my scholarship focuses on the subjects of labor and property, especially women’s labor and property, in Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatic literature and theater history. At Wesleyan, in addition to the Shakespeare lecture and introductory courses like “Shakespeare on Film” and “Renaissance Drama,” I have taught advanced seminars cross-listed with the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, including “Historicizing Early Modern Sexualities” and “Staging Race in Early Modern England.” This spring, while on sabbatical, I will be teaching a graduate seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on “Mastering Research Methods at the Folger.”
Book by Natasha Korda
Q: You’re the author/editor of more than 20 articles and four books including Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Property in Early Modern England (2002) and Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama (2002). Your newest book, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage (2011) argues that the purportedly “all-male” stage of Shakespeare’s time relied on the labor, capital and ingenuity of women behind the scenes of theatrical production. In what ways did women contribute, and how were they acknowledged?
A: The rise of the professional stage in England relied on women of all stripes, including ordinary crafts- and tradeswomen who supplied costumes, properties and comestibles; wealthy heiresses and widows who provided much-needed capital and credit; wives, daughters and widows of theater people who worked actively alongside their male kin; and immigrant women who fueled the fashion-driven stage with a range of newfangled skills and commodities. The work of female seamstresses, laundresses, dressers (known as “tirewomen”), wigmakers and head-dressers, among others, was woven into the very fabric of player’s costumes, congealed in the folds of their starched ruffs, set into the curls of their perukes, and arranged in the petticoats of boy-actors, while the terms of female moneylenders were calculated in the playing-companies’ balance sheets and inscribed in the terms of their bonds. Female “gatherers” collected entrance fees at the doors and galleries of theaters, while the cries of female hawkers echoed inside and outside their walls and the wares they sold were consumed in the “pit,” galleries, and on the stage.
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