Joshua R. Held, PhD

Director of the Honors Program
Associate Professor of English
Chair, Department of English

Faculty Since 2015


BA, Trinity International University
MA, Indiana University
PhD, Indiana University


[email protected]

My teaching spans all periods of British and American literatures and includes courses cross-listed with other departments in the Humanities, such as contemporary theory. My focus in scholarship is early modern England, especially Shakespeare and Milton.

My first book—Bold Conscience: Luther to Shakespeare to Milton—is forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press in a new series, Strode Studies in Early Modern Literature and Culture. In it, I argue that English authors from Shakespeare and Donne to Milton re-shape the “coward conscience” that dominates earlier literary descriptions into an assertive politicized force. Taking the 1649 regicide of King Charles I as the fulcrum that unites literary and historical timelines, I track the rising boldness of conscience from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Henry VIII to John Donne’s court sermons, and thence to Milton’s defense of free speech, Areopagitica. Milton then confutes the brash royal conscience in Eikonoklastes, and—in Paradise Lost—roots boldness instead in the inner paradise of a pure, common conscience, a prelude to Locke.

My second book focuses on Shakespeare, textuality, and theory: Reading Difference in Shakespeare’s Folio: Race, Gender, and Tragic Sympathy. In it, I argue that six of Shakespeare’s tragedies underwent strategic revision between their quarto and Folio versions, at once adjusting pity for main characters and revealing Shakespeare’s interest in re-considering some central problems of his world, and ours—especially the theoretically and socially central issues of race and gender.

As honors program director, I organize the specialized curriculum for honors students, lead outings to cultural events in Chicago and elsewhere, and serve on honors thesis committees.

For more on Dr. Held’s published work, visit

Selected Publications

“Bunyan and Textual Criticism: Revising the Wife in Pilgrim’s Progress” (9,800 words), forthcoming in Essays in Criticism 72.2 (2022).

“Conscience in Hamlet and Claudius” (7,600 words), forthcoming in Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 62.2 (2022).

“Pitying Desdemona in Folio Othello: Race, Gender, and the Willow Song,” Shakespeare Survey 75 (2022): 148–65. See Publication >>

“Editing Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida: The Folio’s Double Rejection of Pandarus,” Shakespeare Studies 50 (2022): 101–25.

“Spenser and Renaissance Patristics: The Eight Deadly Sins in The Faerie Queene,” Modern Philology 119.4 (2022): 468–90. See Publication >>

“Epic Messengers in Homer, Virgil, and Milton: Repetition and Gender in Paradise Lost,” Philological Quarterly 101.1–2 (2022): 47–69. See Publication >>

“Constructing Miltonic Interiority: Adam, Satan, and Conscience in Paradise Lost,” Milton Studies 64.1 (2022): 95–122. See Publication >>

Troilus and Cressida’s Folio Prologue in the Poets’ War: Shakespeare, Jonson, Marston,” Ben Jonson Journal 28.2 (2021): 214–36. See Publication >>

“Milton and Genealogical Poetry: Paul, Aratus, Lucretius, and Hesiod in Paradise Lost,” Milton Quarterly 54.4 (2020): 163–80. See Publication >>

“Eve’s ‘paradise within’ in Paradise Lost: A Stoic Mind, a Love Sonnet, and a Good Conscience,” Studies in Philology 114.1 (2017): 171–96. See Publication >>

“Caliban and the Rhetoric of Sincerity: Postcolonialism, Performance, and the Self,” Christianity and Literature 67.1 (2017): 69–88. See Publication >>

“Arthur and the Failed Pursuit of Imitatio Christi: Christological Allusion in Spenser’s Faerie Queene and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King,” Arthuriana 26.3 (2016): 41–66. See Publication >>

Awards, Affiliations, and Achievements

  • First Book Assistance Grant, Milton Society of America, 2021
  • Summer Research Grant, Trinity International University, 2018, 2020
  • Kate Gartner Frost Award, best essay by an early career scholar, John Donne Society, 2019
  • Everett Helm Fellowship, Lilly Library, 2017
  • Summer Institute Grant, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2016


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