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Department of English Language and Literature pres.

Patricia Akhimie Lecture

"The Qualities of Breeding”: Race and Conduct in The Merchant of Venice

Patricia's faculty photo. Patricia's faculty photo.
Patricia's faculty photo.
Patricia Akhimie (Rutgers University) will deliver a public lecture.

Abstract: In The Merchant of Venice, the multiple meanings of “quality” triangulate a new mode of social differentiation, locating racialism at the nexus of ideas about shared ability, shared nature, and shared belief or rank. The concept of relative “quality” is used to distinguish between groups on the basis of attributes that are inherent or inherited, and those that are learned, providing a reasoning for existing inequalities of access and opportunity. The Merchant of Venice features competing vocabularies of valuation as measured by worldly wealth, moral worth, and good conduct. The contradictions inherent in the overlapping models for measuring relative value in the play reveal an underlying ideology of racial differentiation, a belief in the existence of innate differences between groups.
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