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Research & CV

Rhema Hokama

I am a scholar of early modern English literary history and Reformation theology, and received my PhD in English literature from Harvard University. I am currently assistant professor of English literature in the division of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), a new university founded in collaboration with MIT.

I am the author of Devotional Experience and Erotic Knowledge in the Literary Culture of the English Reformation (Oxford University Press, 2023). In my first book, I explore how Calvinist soteriology and a new interest in experiential popular divinity shaped the way Shakespeare, Herrick, Donne, Greville, and Milton conceptualized intimacy, devotional access, and desire in their poetry—in both religious and erotic contexts. My work has been published or is forthcoming in Modern Philology, Shakespeare Quarterly, Milton Studies, SEL Studies in English Literature, Literature and Theology, Multicultural Shakespeare, Notes and Queries, Parergon, the Routledge Handbook to Shakespeare and Religion, Routledge's Early Modern Religious Dissents and Radicalism series, and an edited collection from Brill on the global Renaissance.

Since moving to Singapore, I have been thinking the cultural afterlife of the European Reformation in contexts of global exchange with Islamic, Asian, and New World cultures and people. I have recently completed a second book project about cosmopolitan identity after the Reformation in early modern England and the Dutch Republic. In my second book, I argue that the Reformation provided new ways of thinking about social and political inclusion—ones that were no longer tethered to national or religious identity.

 

My recent scholarly interest centers on early modern European travel accounts about Asia and the Pacific, which chronicle journeys to places such as China, Java, Bali, Bantam, Chiang Mai, Myanmar, and Micronesia. Forthcoming work includes two articles about Shakespeare and English, Dutch, and Portuguese travel accounts about journeys to China and Southeast Asia in Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, and two chapters on early modern European maritime exploration of the Pacific islands. I'm also at work on an article project on Calvinist experiential theology and "ocular proof" in Othello, and an article project on definitions of liberty in More, Hobbes, and Locke on heresy and dissent.

I have a B.A. in classical studies and English literature from the University of Chicago, and a M.St. in early modern British literature from Oxford.

Before coming to SUTD, I spent a year away from academia and worked as director of communication and development at a nonprofit focused on high impact giving targeting global poverty initiatives.

ABOUT ME

Publications

Books

  • Devotional Experience and Erotic Knowledge in the Literary Culture of the English Reformation: Poetry, Public Worship, and Popular Divinity (Oxford University Press, 2023). Link.

  • Cosmopolitanism after the European Reformation: Natural Law, Toleration, and Global Exchange from Tyndale to Shakespeare to the New World (second book project).

Journal Articles

  • “Shakespeare’s Cathayans: Twelfth Night, maritime exchange, and early modern China,” Notes and Queries (online 2023; print forthcoming). Link.

  • “Shylock in Fuquieo: Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and the trial of a Portuguese stranger by China’s courts in Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations,” Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation, and Performance (online 2023; print forthcoming 2024). 

  • “Sexual freedom and New World conquest in Francisco de Vitoria’s De Indis and John Donne’s ‘To his Mistress going to bed,’” Notes and Queries 69, no. 3 (2022): 231–33. Link.

  • “‘Wanton child’: Fantasies of infanticide, abortion, and monstrous birth in Mary Wroth’s Pamphilia to Amphilanthus,” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 62.2 (forthcoming spring 2022 issue). Link.

  • “‘Loves halowed temple’: Erotic sacramentalism and reformed devotion in John Donne’s ‘To his Mistress going to bed,’” Modern Philology 119.2 (2021): 248–75. Link.

  • “Shakespeare in Hawai‘i: Puritans, Missionaries, and Language Trouble in a Hawaiian Pidgin Translation of Twelfth Night,” Multicultural Shakespeare 18 (2018): 57-77. Link.

  • “Praying in Paradise: Recasting Milton’s Iconoclasm in Paradise Lost,” Milton Studies 54 (2013): 161-180. Link.

  • “Love’s Rites: Performing Prayer in Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” Shakespeare Quarterly 62.2 (2012): 199-223. Link.

Book Chapters

  • “Shakespeare and Calvinism,” in the Routledge Handbook to Shakespeare and Religion (Abingdon: Routledge, forthcoming).

  • “Religion among the cannibals: human sacrifice, jurisprudence, and the New World in early modern travel writing,” Fictions of Sacrifice: Early Modern Texts, Political Theology, and Secularization, Routledge Series in Early Modern Religious Dissents and Radicalism (Abingdon: Routledge, forthcoming).

  • “The Pacific islands in the Renaissance imagination,” The global Renaissance (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

Hokama, Devotional Experience and Erotic Knowledge book cover
publications

Teaching

At SUTD, I've taught classes on Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, and lyric poetry across all time periods. I teach a course on Satan and His Afterlives, which explores literary representations of Satan from his earliest mentions in the Abrahamic scriptural texts up through the modern novel, with significant attention given to Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Divine Comedy. In my elective Lyric Poetry, we read 500 years of the lyric form, from Li Bai to Petrarch, from Donne to contemporary Singaporean poets. For more about my lyric elective, see my teaching blurb "Reading Sonnets in Singapore."

 

In addition to teaching classes on Shakespeare's plays, I also teach a Global Shakespeares course that places Shakespeare's original plays in conversation with adaptations into Hawai'i pidgin English, Singlish, and Caribbean contexts. In the Spring 2022 term, I also taught a new Shakespeare course called Shakespeare, Race, and Religion in the Renaissance World that explored Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, Antony and Cleopatra, and Othello through the lens of historical ideas about racial and religious difference in the early modern period. 

 

Since joining SUTD, I've taught in the university's team-taught humanities core course Global Humanities, which explores questions about identity, community, and culture through foundational texts from both the Eastern and Western literary traditions—from Confucius to Plato, from Thomas More to the contemporary Singaporean playwright Kuo Pao Kun.

In Spring 2023, I taught two new courses on contemporary literature. The first is a course on contemporary Asian American literature, spanning the food memoir to the graphic novel. The second is a course that places new ideas in practical ethics in conversation with the contemporary novel form, focusing on topics spanning the ethics of AI, disaster response, environmental destruction, animal welfare, and global poverty. 

From June through August 2016, I led a six-week interdisciplinary course through the University of Chicago with units on culture and civilization, Mandarin language immersion, and clean energy technology based in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.

 

At Harvard, I taught courses on Shakespeare’s drama and Renaissance literature, a survey course in English literature from Beowulf to Milton, and the science fiction novel.

You can review course evaluations of previous courses here.

teaching
CONTACT

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©2023 by Rhema Hokama

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