Dr Jessica Chiba

Dr Jessica Chiba

Shakespeare Institute
Assistant Professor

Contact details

The Shakespeare Institute
Mason Croft
Church Street
CV37 6HP

I’m a Shakespeare scholar because I’m fascinated by what the continued interest in Shakespeare can reveal about the kind of beings we are. Much of my research centres on philosophical issues raised by Shakespeare’s works, and especially ontological or epistemological questions about existence and knowledge.

My current research combines my philosophical interests and my work in Japanese translations of Shakespeare to push the interdisciplinary boundaries between textual Shakespeare studies, global Shakespeare and philosophy. I am looking at early modern English literature from modern-day Japan, focusing on translation – especially untranslatable words, phrases and concepts – in order to highlight unacknowledged cultural norms and philosophical issues in Shakespeare’s works.


  • BA (Hons) in English with Philosophy (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • MA in Shakespeare (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • PhD in English (Royal Holloway, University of London)


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.


This year I will be co-convening the ‘Shakespeare’s Legacy’ module with Dr Erin Sullivan at the Shakespeare Institute.

Postgraduate supervision

Find out more - our PhD Shakespeare Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


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.


Recent publications


Hunter, A 2017, 人間の安全保障の挑戦. translated by Jessica Chiba, Yutaro Sato, Koyo Shobo, Kyoto.


Chiba, J 2019, 'Lost and Found in Translation: Hybridity in Kurosawa's Ran', Shakespeare Bulletin, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 599. https://doi.org/10.1353/shb.2018.0059

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Chiba, J 2018, 'And Nothing Brings me All Things': Shakespeare's Philosophy of Nothing. in C Bourne & E Caddick Bourne (eds), The Routledge Companion to Shakespeare and Philosophy. Routledge Philosophy Companions Series, Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 374, Shakespeare and Philosophy, Hatfield, United Kingdom, 3/07/16.

Chiba, J 2017, « Je ne suis pas ce que je suis »: Shakespeare et l’ontologie. in P Drouet & P Grosos (eds), Shakespeare au risque de la philosophie. Harmann, Paris, pp. 335, Subjecting Shakespeare to the Risks of Philosophy, Poitiers, France, 16/03/16.

View all publications in research portal


  • Shakespeare and Philosophy
  • Shakespeare and Japanese translation
  • Shakespeare’s relevance to life in the world today

Languages and other information

Fluent in Japanese.