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Faculty Fellow

Ellen MacKay

Associate Professor of English University of Chicago


Ellen MacKay's interests tend to cluster at the uneasy conjunction of performance and history. Broadly construed, as everyday concepts, the first of these is live, fleeting, insubstantial, and imitative while the second is dead, lasting, weighty, and real. When one category serves as the medium of the other, like when the past is resurrected in reenactment or the archive is made to house theatrical matter, basic beliefs regarding what is true or what counts as an action tend to unravel. In courses like “Fear of the Copy from Plato to Plagiarism” and “Toxic Theatre: How to Do Deadly Things without Really Doing Them,” MacKay has explored the way history and performance compete for meaning across a variety of places and historical moments in conditions that range from the grandiose to the mundane.

MacKay is currently working on two new book projects. One is on the early modern social imaginary that emerges from some curious, cryptoecological accounts of the way the audience looks from the standpoint of playwrights and players, including the “sea of wax” in Timon of Athens, the “groundlings” and their uncapabilities in Hamlet and The Gull’s Horn-book, and the “floating island” in The Roaring Girl. Her other project is on cultural heritage creation and Shakespeare’s absent remains.

For more details on MacKay's research and publications, please visit her profile page at the University of Chicago.

Featured Project


The CEDAR Project: Critical Editions for Digital Analysis and Research

A screenshot of the CEDAR database shows sophisticated digital analysis of a biblical text.

The CEDAR Project: Critical Editions for Digital Analysis and Research

This project aims to produce open-access critical editions of four key textual corpora: Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Gilgamesh, the Book of Genesis, and a body of Middle Bengali poetry.

The CEDAR project aims to produce critical editions for the digital age. It brings together six faculty members from four different departments and schools in the University of Chicago as well as scholarly advisors from beyond the University. The textual foci of the project are four distinct...