Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen
Fields of interest
My research focuses primarily on the interaction between literature and religious culture in early modern England (approximately 1500–1700), with a special interest in the Reformation and the (religious) history of the human body. Recently, I’ve ventured beyond the early modern period for a book on literary representations of interpersonal reconciliation from Shakespeare until the present day (see below).
I’m also interested in (and have published on) the cultural-historical of suffering more broadly, in the history of consolation literature and in the question of how cultural-historical research can help us understand and address modern-day questions surrounding the experience of illness.
In September 2018, I published my third book, entitled A Literary History of Reconciliation: Power, Remorse and the Limits of Forgiveness. From William Shakespeare to Marilynne Robinson, this book examines representations of interpersonal reconciliation in works of literature, focusing on how these representations draw on the language of divine forgiveness. Christian theology sees divine forgiveness as conditional upon a sinner's remorse and self-abasement before God, but also as a form of grace – unconditional and rooted only in divine love. I explore what happens when this paradoxical forgiveness paradigm comes to serve as a template for interpersonal reconciliation. As A Literary History of Reconciliation shows, literary writers imagine interpersonal reconciliation as being centrally about power and hierarchy, and present forgiveness without power as longed for but ever elusive. Drawing on major works of literature from the early modern era to the present day, this book explores works by John Milton, Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, Ian McEwan and others to craft a literary history that will appeal to readers interested in literature, religion and philosophy. You can find more details here.
My second monograph came out in 2012 and is entitled Pain and Compassion in Early Modern English Literature and Culture. It investigates changing early modern perceptions of physical pain in a range of literary, religious, philosophical and medical texts, with a special focus on the literary representation of pain. I argue that early modern culture located the meaning of pain partly in its capacity to elicit compassion in others, but also show that the nature of this compassion was fiercely contested. This second book is the result of a VENI research grant awarded to me by NWO (Dutch Organization for Academic Research) in 2006.
My first book (2007), Devil Theatre: Demonic Possesion and Exorcism in English Renaissance Drama, 1558-1642, reads representations of demonic possession and exorcism in English Renaissance drama in relation to early modern theological and political controversies over these issues.
I mainly teach courses on English literature from 1500 to 1800. In addition to first- and second-year courses on Renaissance and eighteenth-century literature, I offer a third-year module on Shakespeare and Politics and an MA module on John Milton’s Paradise Lost. I am also happy to supervise BA and MA theses, especially on English literature from the period 1500-1800.
2019: Short Term Research Fellow at the Huntington Library (San Marino, California)
2004-present: Associate Professor of English literature, Leiden University
2016: Short-Term Research Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington DC)
2011: Visiting Professor of English Literature, College of William & Mary
2006–2010: NWO VENI research fellow at Leiden
2003: PhD in English literature, Leiden University