Dr Jessica Chiba

Personal profile

Studied English with a minor in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she graduated with First Class Honours, and was presented with the Martin Holloway Prize from the University, and the Edmée Manning Award from the English Department. She was an MA with Distinction in Shakespeare studies at the same institution, and passed her PhD without corrections.

As a contribution to the University's research community she runs the Shakespeare Reading Group, which was co-founded with Scott Shepherd.

Research interests

My primary work is in Shakespeare, early modern literature, and philosophy; my secondary interests are in Japanese adaptations of Shakespeare and medieval literature. My research explores the philosophically and politically significant aspects of literary works and how they can be read both in the context of their time and in terms of the philosophy that came to theorise these aspects in later ages. By combining literary criticism with historical contextualization and philosophical theories, I engage with literature in a philosophically rigorous manner that takes seriously the complexity of the time in which the texts were written, and the reasons why we, as moderns, find early modern literature significant

My doctoral thesis, Shakespeare's Ontology is the first book-length study to investigate the idea of ‘being’ in Shakespeare’s work. It examines the extent to which Shakespeare’s writing is informed by notions of being available in his time, as well as how the more complex ontological moments in his plays and poetry prefigure later philosophical theories. It is an interdisciplinary study that considers not just the imaginative literature of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but also non-literary texts such as sermons, political writings, and theological tracts, in order to explore the relevant historical and cultural contexts; it also draws on later philosophical works by Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Adorno.

My current research on Shakespeare's use of nothingness focuses on the concept of nothingness in Shakespeare. My aim is to establish a sense of the early modern theological, mathematical, political, philosophical and material aspects of nothingness in order to tease out the epistemological, moral and existential implications of Shakespeare’s use of ‘nothing’, an exploration which will be aided by modern philosophical thought.


Educational background

BA in English with Philosophy, Royal Holloway, University of London

MA in Shakespeare, Royal Holloway, University of London

PhD in English Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London

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