Photo of Matthew J. Smith, Ph.D.

Matthew J. Smith, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of English
Phone: (626) 815-6000, Ext. 2055
My research interests are in Renaissance literature and drama, performance studies, religion and literature, early modern racial and religious deviancy, genre studies, and the history of liberal education. I've recently completed my first book, currently under review, Stage, Cathedral, Wagon, Street: Theatrical Belief in Early Modern England. Scholarship often locates the secularization of the performing arts at the development of the commercial stage in the Elizabethan period, pitting the public openness of theater against the privacy of religious knowledge. Such characterizations, however, impose too clean a divide between theatricality and religious belief. My book addresses this gap through a comparative study of major and overlooked performance genres—including plays, ceremonies, pageants, mystery drama, ballads, and sermons—to investigate overlapping qualities of audience belief across performance settings and forms. When analyzed together, these archives reveal a culture that served to integrate the atmospheres, emotions, and physical sensations of theater into its remarkably fluid habits of religious practice.

I have published on Shakespeare, theological economics and the plays of Philip Massinger, the phenomenology of theatrical confession, the ambience and reception of Donne's sermons, and the poets Phineas Fletcher and Richard Corbett. I have also begun work on a second book, tentatively entitled, Secular Drama: Religious and Racial Deviancy and the Human Will. While postcolonial scholarship has examined rhetorics of English identity-building in early modern drama’s representations of racial and religious “others,” I argue that such representations also challenge the construction of English identity by undermining the Protestant formation of the human will. This secularizing phenomenon is especially visible, I suggest, in characters of racial, ethnic, and religious deviancy, such as Marlowe’s Barabbas, Shakespeare’s Aaron, and the seventeenth-century preoccupation with Turks.

At APU, I teach primarily Shakespeare and British Literature, but I also enjoy teaching seminars in literature and religion, performance studies, secularism, non-Shakespearean drama, Milton, and a new course I'm designing based on my recent research, called "Early Modern Literary Deviants."

Please feel free to contact me with inquiries. See also my personal webpage linked to the right.


  • Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2012
  • M.A., University of Connecticut, 2008
  • B.A, Biola University, 2005


Honors College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

  • Department of English


  • Drama
  • Historical Phenomenology
  • History of Early Modern Performance
  • Religion
  • Religion and Literature
  • Renaissance literature

Courses Taught

  • ENGL 110 – Freshman Writing Seminar
  • ENGL 111 – Introduction to Literature
  • ENGL 222 – English Literature Survey to 1789
  • ENGL 377 – Shakespeare