Jessica Chiba

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

I am interested in breaking down boundaries – disciplinary, national, and historical. My expertise and experience are in Shakespeare and early modern literature more broadly, but I am as concerned with what is medieval or even modern about early modern literature, and how such boundaries come into existence. Most of my research so far has focused on how Shakespeare’s works can be read both in the context of their own time and the time that came before; how they prefigure ideas that came later; and even how the ideas being expressed by Shakespeare may not have had a means of theoretical expression in his own time.

My first book, Shakespeare’s Ontology, which I am currently editing for publication, considers Shakespeare’s evident preoccupation with ‘being’ from the standpoint of philosophical ontology, questioning and clarifying how the plays and poems present existence. The aim is to reveal what ‘being’ involves that is different from, for instance, identity or subjectivity.

The project I am currently working on, Shakespeare’s Untranslatability, continues this concern with philosophical ideas and boundary breaking from a more international perspective. My intent is to undo the separation between global Shakespeare and textual studies by using translations of Shakespeare as a way of reading Shakespeare. Specifically, I am undertaking a philosophical investigation of untranslatable elements in Japanese translations of Shakespeare to reveal the particularities and the limitations of the source text. Untranslatability invites a philosophical consideration of the source text, providing an opportunity to examine what makes the original language unique in ways that a monolingual native speaker might not realise. It also exposes Shakespeare’s supposed universality as a shibboleth by making visible the cultural norms inherent in his works.


I studied for a BA in English with Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, where I won the Martin Holloway Prize and Edmée Manning award for achieving the highest final-year average in English. I was given a scholarship to study for an MA in Shakespeare at Royal Holloway where I remained to study for a PhD on the Crosslands Research Scholarship. My PhD was supervised by Professor Kiernan Ryan and Professor Andrew Bowie.

Before taking up the Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship at the Shakespeare Institute, I was a Visiting Tutor and then a Teaching Fellow at Royal Holloway, as well as an Associate Tutor at the University of Surrey.

Education/Academic qualification

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Royal Holloway University of London

    Shakespeare's Ontology

    19 Sep 2013 - 13 Oct 2016
  • Master of Arts, Royal Holloway University of London


    20 Sep 2012 - 7 Sep 2013
  • Bachelor of Arts, Royal Holloway University of London

    English with Philosophy

    21 Sep 2009 - 30 Jun 2012