Sheila Hassell Hughes

Full-Time Faculty
College of Arts and Sciences: English

  • Location: HM 200
  • Phone: 937-229-3434
  • Email: Contact


Dr. Hughes has served as the chair of the Department of English and as director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program. She earned her Honors B.A. (University of British Columbia) and M.A. (University of Toronto) in English and spent several years teaching ESL to international students in Vancouver, Canada, before earning an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Women's Studies from Emory University. She chose the program at Emory because it allowed her to integrate her interests in women's literature, religious studies, and feminism. After a post-graduate year as visiting faculty at Emory, she joined UD's English Department in 1998. In 2004 she began directing the Women's Studies Program and helped establish a new major. Dr. Hughes is active in the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA), and she has served since 1999 as Associate Editor for North America for Literature and Theology, a scholarly journal published by Oxford University Press. She is also a member of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures (ASAIL) and the Modern Languages Association (MLA). In October 2004, she chaired the Mideast Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature (CCL), which was held at UD.

Faculty Perspective

The University of Dayton has proven a wonderful place to explore and share my interests in all kinds of intersections, such as those among disciplines, between scholarship and teaching, between work and family, and between what happens in the classroom and life beyond.


  • Ph.D., Women's Studies, Emory University (1997)
  • M.A., English, University of Toronto
  • B.A., English, University of British Columbia

Research Interests

  • The intersections of gender, ethnicity, and religion in American Indian women's writing
  • Louise Erdrich
  • Religion and literature
  • Feminist theory
  • Women and religion
  • The representation of religion in Louise Erdrich's work

Selected Publications and Presentations


"Red Mother": The Missing Mother Plot as Double Mystery in Louise Erdrich's Fiction." Textual Mothers, Maternal Texts. Ed., Andrea O'Reilly and Elizabeth Podneiks. Association for Research on Mothering. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier UP (forthcoming).

"Making Service Learning in Women's Studies from Scratch: Notes from the Test Kitchen of a New Major." Handbook on Service Learning in Women's Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Disciplines. Ed., Karen Dugger. Towson, MD: The Institute for Teaching and Research on Women (forthcoming).

"Unraveling Ethnicity: Wendy Rose's 'Half-Breed' Poetics." SAIL: Studies in American Indian Literatures 16.2 (Summer 2004):14-49.

"A Prophet Overheard: A Juxtapositional Reading of Gwendolyn Brooks' 'In the Mecca'." African American Review (Summer 2004): 257-80.

"Conversions and Incorporations: Crossing Genders and Religions with Erdrich's Father Damien." Christianity and Native Cultures. Ed., Cyriac Pullapilly, et al. Notre Dame, IN: Cross Cultural, 2004. 597-626.

"'Eye to Eye': Using Women's Literature as Lenses for Feminist Theology." Literature and Theology: An International Journal of Religion, Theory, and Culture 16.1 (March 2002): 1-26.

"Falls of Desire / Leaps of Faith: Religious Syncretism in Louise Erdrich's and Joy Harjo's 'Mixed- Blood' Poetry." Religion and Literature 33.2 (Summer 2001): 59-83.


"Conflict, Conversion, and Community: The Religious Worldview of Louise Erdrich's Fiction." Invited address. Women's Studies Colloquium Series. Emory University (November 2006).

"Red Mother, Red Earth: Maternal Absence and/as Sacred Space in Louise Erdrich's Fiction." Sacred Space: The International Society for Religion, Literature, and Culture (ISRLC) Bi-ennial Conference. University of Stirling, Scotland (October 2006).

"Maternal Mysteries: Presence, Absence, Plot, and Spirit among Erdrich's Anishinaabeg." Invited paper. NEXUS: Interdisciplinary Conference on Religion and Nation. University of Tennessee, Knoxville (April 2006).

"'Begin With Snakes': Teaching Native American Literature and Religion at a Midwestern Catholic University." Religion and Literature Forum 2005: Sacred Stories of North America, LeMoyne College, Syracuse, NY (October 2005).

"The 'Red Mother' and/as the Great Mystery: Missing Mothers in Erdrich's Fiction." Native American Literature Symposium. Mystic Lake Casino, MN (April 2004).

"Conversions and Incorporations: Crossing Genders and Religions with Erdrich's Father Damien." International Conference on Christianity and Native Cultures. St. Mary's College, IN (September 2002).

"Corn Mother Does the Pentecostal Conga: Joy Harjo's Forbidden Bible." American Academy of Religion (AAR) Annual Meeting. Denver, CO (November 2001).

"Recollections of an Urban 'Half-Breed': Traditions and Identity in Wendy Rose's Poetry." Mid-East Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature.University of Dayton, OH (October 2001).