Five College Associate Professor of English
Professor Degenhardt's current research project focuses on the staging of eastern identities and Islamic conversion in popular plays of the Renaissance period. She also enjoys writing about the forging of American identity in Asian American and African American literature.
Her teaching interests include Renaissance drama, gender and race studies, Asian American literature, and African American literature.
Religious rituals, black magic, and theatrical entertainment were linked by controversy in Shakespeare's England: were they potent acts or empty performances? How did they seduce and endanger unwitting audiences? Foregrounding the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, we will explore the intersecting cultural histories of religious persecution, witchcraft trials, and movements to close down the theaters. We will consider how England's religious culture was destabilized not only by the Protestant Reformation but also by global trade and travel, which increasingly exposed the English to Islam, Judaism and other religions of the world. To what extent did audiences believe in the power of Othello's witchcraft, Prospero's conjuring, or Paulina's miraculous resurrection? Why was theatrical enactment considered so dangerous? Our focus will extend beyond the interpretation of simple representational allusions to grapple with the particular semiotics of theatrical performance. Plays include The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Pericles, The Renegado, The Witch of Edmonton, Dr. Faustus, and others. Prerequisite: At least one previous literature course.