The Early Modern Stage
(Oxford University Press, 2022)
This monograph demonstrates how a new understanding of fortune cultivated by the commercial theater was both shaped by and helped to foster England’s economic expansion during the early formation of the British empire. While largely derided as a sinful, earthly distraction in the Boethian tradition of the Middle Ages, fortune made a comeback on the Renaissance stage as a force associated with virtuous opportunities. Foregrounding plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Heywood, and others, this book argues that the theater helped to redefine the meaning of fortune in the period by forging a relationship between metaphysical ideas of chance, luck, and contingency--cosmic notions of fortune inherited from the classical and medieval periods--and new opportunities for accumulating wealth by means of purposeful action and the calculation of risk.
The Shakespearean Horizon:
Worlds Upon Worlds
in the Renaissance and Today
(co-authored with Henry S. Turner, in progress)
This co-authored monograph considers how Shakespeare’s plays disclose an attitude toward “the world” that is distinct from the modern, capitalist-driven concept of globalization, in which the world appears as a unified, homogenized totality. Beginning with the premise that “the world” is an historically-contingent and pragmatic concept, we explore how Shakespeare puts into motion a newly pluralized idea of multiple worlds. We argue that Shakespeare’s plays alert us to how alternative futures may be possible, not through the vision of a larger world that can accommodate us all but through a pluralistic understanding of world that values difference, disconnection, and contradiction. At the same time, we critique some of the premises of a globalized Shakespeare by reorienting the question of what Shakespeare can do for the world. Even as the book recognizes the power of “Shakespeare” as a global phenomenon—the capacity of his plays to unite people across different cultures, nations, and historical moments—it focuses on what we call “the Shakespearean horizon”: the floating, mobile, ever-changing lines of convergence in which claims for Shakespeare’s universalism encounter the multiplicities, singularities, or untranslatable circumstances we find in his work and in the worlds of our own time.
Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance
on the Early Modern Stage
(Edinburgh University Press 2010;
paperback edition published 2015)
This monograph explores Christian-Muslim encounter in twelve plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. 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, ultimately revealing an intersection between the stage’s engagement of Reformation controversies and its construction of Islam as a proto-racial category.
Religion and Drama in Early Modern England:
The Performance of Religion on the Renaissance Stage
(Co-edited with Elizabeth Williamson, Ashgate Press 2011)
This collection of essays pursues new methodologies for theorizing the relationship between religious culture and popular drama. Focusing on how theatrical performance shifted the meaning of “religious” content, it explores the sensory effects and material conditions of early modern performance, the intricate resonances between staged rituals and religious ceremonies, and the unstable status of religious allusions on the public stage. By considering both the semiotics and the affective impact of theatrical and religious experience, the collection reveals the ways in which religion and performance were inextricably linked in early modern England.