The Tempest as Trans Archive: An Interview with Scholar Mary Ann S. Saunders


  • Alexa Alice Joubin George Washington University
  • Mary Ann S. Saunders University of British Columbia



This interview with Dr. Mary Ann Saunders, conducted by Alexa Alice Joubin, offers a new interpretation of Julie Taymor’s film The Tempest. Bringing her life experience to bear on cisgender biases in non-trans artists’ works, Saunders proposes a new interpretation of Ariel, as performed by Ben Whishaw, as a trans woman who is “both beautiful and bittersweet.” Reading Shakespeare as a “trans archive” enables us to more effectively interrogate the long history of associating trans bodies with monstrosity and bodies in distress.

Author Biographies

Alexa Alice Joubin, George Washington University

Alexa Alice Joubin (, she/her/hers) is the inaugural recipient of the bell hooks Legacy Award (Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association) and recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award. She writes about race, gender, cultural globalization, Shakespeare, and film and theatre. She is Professor of English; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Theatre; International Affairs; and East Asian Languages and Literatures at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she cofounded and codirects the Digital Humanities Institute. Her recent books include Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press, 2021), Race (with Martin Orkin, Routledge, 2018), Onscreen Allusions to Shakespeare: International Films, Television, and Theatre (coedited, 2022), Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987–2007 (edited, 2022), Local and Global Myths in Shakespearean Performance (coedited, 2018), and Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation (coedited, 2014). She is editor-in-chief of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Global Shakespeare and, starting 2023, the general editor of The Shakespearean International Yearbook.

Mary Ann S. Saunders, University of British Columbia

Dr. Mary Ann S. Saunders is a writing and discourse studies scholar in the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.