Five College Associate Professor of English

Jane Hwang Degenhardt

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Jane Deganhardt
Jane Hwang Degenhardt
Five College Associate Professor of English
Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies
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Jane Degenhardt
Jane Hwang Degenhardt is an associate professor of English Literature with a joint appointment between Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her B.A. from Hamilton College and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania.  Her research and teaching interests include Shakespeare, non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama, the global Renaissance, early modern religion, theories of embodiment, and gender and race studies.

Jane is currently working on a new book on the relationship between early modern maritime ventures and the concept of fortune. Entitled Fortune’s Empire: Chance, Providence, and Overseas Exploration in Early Modern English Drama, this study considers how England’s nascent engagement in global commerce and exploration heightened awareness of the role of fortune in the world: as a cosmic force of chance and as an emerging understanding of wealth that was earned rather than inherited. Drawing attention to an archive of plays dramatizing maritime travel, trade, and exploration, the book shows how the theater played a vital role in shaping and critiquing these evolving understandings of fortune and cultivating proper ethical responses to new forms of economic investment.

Jane’s first 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. Jane has published articles on topics such as the chinaware trade, shifting values of gold, imperial world history, virgin martyrdom, tragicomic drama, and Shakespeare’s foreign settings.

More broadly, Jane’s interest in the dramatic staging of religious phenomena informs her teaching, including a seminar on “Religion, Magic, and the Shakespearan Stage.” Her explorations of the relationship between popular performance 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).

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