Jyotsna Singh Leaves Lasting Legacy at MSU and Will Deliver Legacy Lecture on April 17

As the 2023-2024 recipient of the College of Arts & Letters’ Legacy Lecture Award, Jyotsna Singh, who recently retired from the Department of English at Michigan State University, will deliver a 60-minute legacy lecture Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the Lincoln Room of the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, following a reception that begins at 6:30 p.m.

A picture of a woman in black speaking at a podium.
Professor Jyotsna Singh delivering the closing remarks at the symposium held in her honor in December 2023.

In her legacy lecture, titled Shakespeare for Our Times, Dr. Singh, Professor Emerita of Early Modern Literature and Culture, will aim to bridge the gap of almost 500 years from the Age of Shakespeare to our own times by approaching Shakespeare through multiple journeys from Elizabethan London, to the world of the plays themselves, and finally to our contemporary societies.

“Through these journeys,” Singh said, “I hope to highlight the uniqueness of Shakespeare’s works in encompassing a wide range of human experience, and engaging audiences through an ethical and empathetic imagination.”

Before retiring from MSU in December 2023, Singh was honored for her significant contributions to her field during a special symposium that brought together friends, faculty, staff, students, and family to commemorate Singh’s years of dedicated service to both the university and the community.

A man with glasses and a grey suit jacket
Justus Nieland, Department of English Chair, delivering the opening remarks at the symposium held in Dr. Singh’s honor.

She was recognized for extensive work encompassing a diverse range of topics, including Shakespeare, travel writing, postcolonial theory, early modern histories of Islam, and gender and race studies. She often explored the intersections of these different fields and periods.

Throughout her career, she made significant contributions to academia with an impressive list of published works. Some of her notable publications include The Weyward Sisters: Shakespeare and Feminist Politics (co-authored with Dympna Callaghan and Lorraine Helms, Blackwell); Colonial Narratives/Cultural Dialogues: ‘Discovery’ of India in the Language of Colonialism (Routledge); Travel Knowledge: European ‘Discoveries’ in the Early Modern Period (co-edited with Ivo Kamps, Palgrave); Shakespeare and Postcolonial Theory (2019); and her latest book (edited), A Companion to the Global Renaissance: Literature and Culture in the Era of Expansion, 1500-1700 Second Edition (Wiley Blackwell, 2021), which offers a comprehensive view of globalization across the early modern world through a collection of original essays.

Professors Jyotsna Singh and Ellen McCallum, a co-organizer of the symposium.
Professors Jyotsna Singh (left) and Ellen McCallum (right) at the symposium held in Dr. Singh’s honor. McCallum was a co-organizer of the event.

Currently, Singh is working on two ongoing projects. The first project is a monograph, titled Muslim and Christian Identity-formations in the Early Modern World, which looks at the shifting applications of the term “religion” in Europe, via a conglomeration of Muslim cultural memories and European imaginings of the Muslim “other.” Second, she is contracted to co-edit a new edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, (with Matthew Dimmock) for Cambridge University Press, UK.

Throughout her impressive career, Singh was honored with several research fellowships, including two short-term visiting fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library; a Distinguished Visiting Faculty Fellowship at Queen Mary, University of London; and a Long-Term Fellowship at the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University. Most recently, she received a visiting Fellowship at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University (2019). She has led research workshops at the Newberry Library in Chicago, delivered lectures, and participated in conferences globally, a testament to her expertise and influence in the academic community.

A picture of four people sitting at a table with two laptops and a water bottle.
Former and current graduate student at the symposium held in Dr. Singh’s honor. Pictured from left to right: Emily Yates, Janet Bartholomew, Katherine Knowles, and Paroma Sarkar, who each spoke at the symposium.

The symposium served as a culmination of Singh’s career, uniting former students and colleagues to honor her life and work. Kirk Domer, Professor in the Department of Theatre at MSU and a symposium co-organizer, noted the excitement and enthusiasm expressed by panelists and former students, highlighting the profound impact Singh has had on the MSU community.

“I was taken by the sheer joy and admiration of the panelists, including many former students who could have a full week-long symposium with their gratitude for Professor Singh’s mentorship, collegiality, and contributions to the profession,” Domer said. “The symposium was the illumination of the impact Professor Singh had on the MSU community. You can see from the list of sponsors that Professor Singh’s reach and commitment to excellence had no boundaries across the university community.”

Three people, two men in suits and one woman, standing and smiling.
Pictured from left to right: Professor Mohammad Khalil, Assistant Professor Abdulhamit Arvas (University of Pennsylvania Visiting Speaker), and Associate Professor Zarena Aslami (co-organizer of the symposium).

The symposium not only celebrated Singh’s past achievements but also laid the foundation for her legacy. The Jyotsna G. Singh Endowment in Early Modern Studies: Race, Empire, and Global Connections for the Special Collections at the MSU Libraries will be utilized to host a yearly public event focusing on Early Modern period collections. Additionally, the funds may support related activities at the MSU Libraries, such as exhibits, classroom projects, pop-up events, or other campus programs linked to the Early Modern period. If there are surplus funds for the fiscal year, they will be allocated to support digital resources, acquisitions of new materials relevant to the Early Modern period, and other offerings.

Ellen McCallum, Professor in the Department of English at MSU and a symposium co-organizer, explained that the symposium’s schedule and lineup of speakers were designed to highlight Singh’s impact on both former students and current colleagues. The guest speakers, in addition to many former students, also featured talks by Professor Jean Howard (Columbia University), Professor Mihoko Suzuki (University of Miami), and Professor Valerie Traub (University of Michigan).

Professor Jyotsna Singh and Professor Stephen Deng, co-organizer of the symposium.
Professor Jyotsna Singh (left) and Professor Stephen Deng (right) at the symposium held in Dr. Singh’s honor. Deng was a co-organizer of the event.

“We wanted to showcase the range of paths that students who worked with Professor Singh embarked on, the mark she had made on her field as her colleagues from Columbia, the University of Miami, and U-M attested, and the legacy that she has established by setting up her endowment through MSU’s Special Collections focused on Early Modern materials,” McCallum said. “The overall energy of the day was so vibrant and affirmative, but if I had to choose one thing to note, it’s this: Jyotsna was always great at sharing her professional connections with her students by inviting her colleagues beyond MSU to serve on their dissertation committees. It was a joy to see various generations of our graduated students reconnecting with these outside scholars. Of course, there was also the great pleasure in seeing accomplished professionals that we had worked with in their student years return.”

Both Domer and McCallum expressed admiration for Singh’s generosity and talent, highlighting the lasting impact she leaves on both academia and her students.

A picture of three people. On the left is a man in a grey suit with a blue shirt; in the middle is a woman with a black shirt and red scarf, and on the right is a women in grey-pinstriped top.
Former graduate students Asif Iqbal (left) and Leila Tarkaji (right) with Professor Jyotsna Singh (center) at the symposium held in Dr. Singh’s honor. Both Iqbal and Tarkaji spoke at the symposium. Tarkaji is now an Assistant Professor at MSU.

“It is an honor to be in the company of a great scholar who has done so much throughout her career,” Domer said. “I will forever be inspired by Professor Singh’s generosity and talent.”

Reflecting on the symposium, McCallum emphasized Singh’s ability to foster a sense of community and connection.

“The symposium really highlighted the significance of the various centers at MSU for their support of faculty and fostering connections beyond departments and across units, but it also underscored how central Jyotsna’s view of community and connection is to her work and life,” McCallum said. “This came through in the panels with her former students, in the introductions that center directors gave for the panels, and the toasts and testimonials from attendees at the closing reception.”

A woman who is wearing glasses and a scarf and holding a microphone who is speaking.
Professor Jean Howard, visiting speaker from Columbia University, delivering her remarks at the symposium held in Dr. Singh’s honor.

Sponsors for the symposium included various departments and centers at MSU, showcasing Singh’s far-reaching influence across the university community, including the Department of English; Asian Studies Center; College of Arts & Letters; Department of Theater; Arts, Cultural Management, and Museum Studies Program; Muslim Studies Program; Department of History; Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities; Center for Gender in Global Context; and the Japan Council.