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: Revising 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

“Pitying Desdemona in Folio Othello: Race, Gender, and the Willow Song,” forthcoming in Shakespeare Survey 75 (2022).

“Constructing Miltonic Interiority: Adam, Satan, and Conscience in Paradise Lost,” forthcoming in Milton Studies 64 (2022).

“Spenser and Renaissance Patristics: The Eight Deadly Sins in The Faerie Queene,” forthcoming in Modern Philology 119.4 (2022).

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

Editing Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida: The Folio’s Double Rejection of Pandarus,” forthcoming in Shakespeare Studies 49 (2021).

 “Troilus and Cressida’s Folio Prologue in the Poets’ War: Shakespeare, Jonson, Marston,” forthcoming in The Ben Jonson Journal 28.2 (2021).

“Bunyan and Textual Criticism: Revising Wives in Pilgrim’s Progress,” forthcoming in Essays in Criticism 71.4 (2021).

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

“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.

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

 “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.

Awards, Affiliations, and Achievements

  • 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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