Matthew J. Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of English
Phone: (626) 815-6000, Ext. 2055
Office Location: Faculty Quad, Room 7
Photo of Matthew J. Smith, Ph.D.


I’m happy to serve as the English Department’s early modern specialist. In addition to teaching courses in Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, and Milton, I also offer interdisciplinary courses in the history of tragedy, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy and literature, and poetics. My research interests are in Renaissance literature and drama, performance studies, genre studies, affect studies, historical phenomenology, and religion and literature. I’ve published essays on authors including Milton, Baudelaire, Donne, Herbert, Shakespeare, Philip Massinger, and Richard Corbett, as well as on interdisciplinary topics such as affect and tragedy, early modern ballads, jigs, sincerity, and sacramental poetics.

My book, Stage, Cathedral, Wagon, Street: Theatrical Belief in Early Modern England, is forthcoming with the University of Notre Dame Press. In it, I ask what early modern commercial plays, political ceremonies, public sermons, religious festivals, jigs, ballads, liturgies, burlesques, and morality drama have in common? Early modern theatricality, I suggest, is a presentational mode not defined by specific narrative strategies or literary devices but, rather, by a certain phenomenological commitment to the event itself, a way of inhabiting a space, playing a character, or engaging as an audience member. In short, early modern theatricality manifests in a practical belief in the ability of a spectacle to both say and do at once.

I’m also active as an editor. I am co-editor, with Julia Lupton, of a collection of essays called Face to Face in Shakespearean Drama: Ethics, Performance, Philosophy, forthcoming with Edinburgh UP, that seeks to challenge the objectification of the face and of the other. What can the physical and performative encounters of the Shakespearean stage teach a world full of emojis, digital mediation, and so-called empathy? I also serve as Associate Editor of the journal Christianity & Literature. Inspired by this role, I’ve guest edited two special issues of C&L, one entitled “The Sacramental Text Reconsidered” in which we examine and critique descriptions of literature as “sacramental” and “incarnational,” and another on the literary history of “Sincerity,” co-edited with Caleb Spencer, that explores the concept of sincerity as it intersects with related concepts of modernity and secularity in literature and theory.

I’m currently working on two new projects. One is called Acts of Sincerity: A Study in the Poetics of Character, and it examines a shift from “action” to “character” in (early) modern literature and drama, beginning with the primal question of when it became conceivably possible for someone to “sincerely sin.” This project combines my interests in genre and affect in readings of Marlowe, Shakespeare, Herbert, Hobbes, Milton, and Dryden. My other book project is tentatively called Recognition: The Festive Imagination of Renaissance Tragic Thought, it asks what classical narrative recognition (anagnorsis) and modern politics of recognition (Hegel’s Anerkennung) have to do with one another. Can our ethical applications of the notion of mutual recognition benefit from a return to the unpredictable, affective, and—some would say—scandalous world of the classical recognition scene?

Please feel free to contact me with inquiries about research, courses, or MA thesis topics. You can read more about my work at 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

Academic Areas

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
    • Department of English
  • Honors College


  • 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

Office Hours

M 1:00-3:00P
TH 2:15-3:15P

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