Jane Hwang Degenhardt’s book, Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance on the Early Modern Stage (2010), explores Christian-Muslim encounters in plays by Shakespeare, Massinger, Dekker, Kyd, Marlowe, and others. Focusing on the stage’s treatment of religious conversion as a sexual seduction, it demonstrates how gender was a key factor in exposing interconnections between religious identities and proto-racial distinctions. It also looks at how the threat of Christian conversion to Islam was framed within a domestic culture of Protestant reform. Revealing an intersection between the stage’s engagement of Reformation controversies and its construction of Islam as a proto-racial category, the book demonstrates how plays of the period selectively appropriated Catholic objects and rituals to ward off the threat of conversion to Islam.
More broadly, Professor Degenhardt’s interests in the relationship between popular drama and religious culture have led to a collection of essays, edited with Elizabeth Williamson, titled Religion and Drama in Early Modern England: The Performance of Religion on the Renaissance Stage (2011). Professor Degenhardt has also published articles in such journals as ELH, The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, and Modern Fiction Studies.
Professor Degenhardt’s teaching specialties include Renaissance literature, gender and race studies, Asian American literature, and African American literature.