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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department

Faculty Profiles: Jane Hwang Degenhardt

Contact Information:
459 Bartlett Hall
Amherst, MA 0l003
p: 413-545-5511
f: 413-545-3880

Associate Professor

Jane Hwang Degenhardt received her B.A. from Hamilton College and her Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research and teaching interests include Shakespeare, non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama, gender and race studies, Asian American literature, and African American literature.

Professor Degenhardt’s book, Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance on the Early Modern Stage (2010), explores Christian-Muslim encounter in twelve plays written by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Focusing on the stage’s treatment of religious conversion as a sexual seduction, it demonstrates how “turning” to Islam was imagined to have physical and reproductive consequences, as well as to endanger Christian souls. More particularly, this study considers how the embodied threats associated with conversion to Islam put pressure on Protestant understandings of religious identity that were predominantly spiritual in nature, reinvigorating Catholic models of resistance involving the erotics of virginity, relics, blood, torture, and martyrdom.

More broadly, Professor Degenhardt’s interest in the dramatic staging of religious phenomena informs her teaching, including a seminar on “Religion, Magic, and the Renaissance Stage.” Her explorations of the relationship between popular drama and religious culture have also led to a collection of essays, coedited with Elizabeth Williamson, titled Religion and Drama in Early Modern England: The Performance of Religion on the Renaissance Stage (2011).

Currently, Professor Degenhardt is working on a new book that explores the shifting meaning of “fortune” in early modern drama to shed new light onto the relationship between overseas imperial ventures and divine providence. Fortune’s Empire considers how England’s transforming economic orientation placed new pressures on the cultural authority of religious belief and gave rise to a new faith in the secular forces of chance, hap, and luck.

Selected Articles:

“Cracking the Mysteries of ‘China’: China(ware) in the Early Modern Imagination,” Studies in Philology 110.1 (Spring 2013): 133-68.

Introduction to Religion and Drama in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2011).

“Catholic Prophylactics and Islam’s Sexual Threat: Preventing and Undoing Sexual Defilement in Massinger’s The Renegado, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 9.1 (Spring/Summer 2009): 62-92.

“Situating the Essential Alien: Sui Sin Far’s Depiction of Chinese-White Marriage and the Exclusionary Logic of Citizenship,” Modern Fiction Studies 54.4 (Winter 2008): 654-88.

“Virgin Martyrdom in Dekker and Massinger’s The Virgin Martyr and the Contemporary Threat of Turning Turk,” ELH 73.1 (Spring 2006): 83-118.