Sheila Hassell Hughes

Contact Information

Sheila Hassell Hughes


  • Full-Time Faculty


Dr. Hughes recently served as the chair of the Department of English for six years and, before that, was director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program for four years.

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 feminist thought. After a post-graduate year as visiting faculty at Emory, she joined UD's English Department in 1998.

Her research and teaching at UD have been wide-ranging and often interdisciplinary. In 2004 she began directing the Women's Studies Program and helped establish a new major. As chair of the English Department, Dr. Hughes shepherded the approval and implementation of a new composition curriculum (ENG 100-200), led a complete revision of the English major - including the addition of a new writing track - and promoted greater diversity in both the curriculum and faculty. Dr. Hughes is active in the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA), and has been involved in many campus initiatives and groups related to gender equity, diversity, and internationalization. 

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

  • Louise Erdrich
  • Religion and literature
  • Feminist theory
  • Girls’ Studies
  • Women and religion
  • Intercultural literacy

Selected Publications and Presentations


"Teresa of Avila. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts. Ed. Timothy Beal. New York: Oxford UP, 2015.

With Carolyn Ridenour, "'Talking Out of School': Crossing and Extending Borders with Collaborative Research in Girls Studies, Women’s Studies, and Teacher Education." Difficult Dialogues about Twenty-First Century Girls. Ed. Alice Ginsberg and Donna Marie Johnson. Albany, NY: SUNY P, 2015.

"A Prophet Overheard: A Juxtapositional Reading of Gwendolyn Brooks' 'In the Mecca'." African American Review (Summer 2004): 257-80. Reprinted in Gwendolyn Brooks. Ed. Mildred Mickle. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. 210-253. Electronic series. Gale Group. EBSCO, 2009. Solicited for reprinting in a new edition of Poetry Criticism, Cengage Learning. Print and electronic.

"Lippy Women: Combating Pornography and Censorship on a Catholic Campus." Visual Culture and Gender 7 (2011).

First author, with Danielle Kusner (student), "A Circle of Shared Memory, Meaning, and Table." And Finally We Meet: Intersections and Intersectionality Among Feminist Activists, Academics and Students. Ed. Alice Ginsberg and Karen Bojar. Towson, MD: Institute for Teaching and Research on Women, 2011.

"'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, 2010.

"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, 2008.

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

"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.

Numerous poems and short works of creative non-fiction in journals and magazines such as Literature and Theology, African American Review, Violence Against Women, Rabbit, Goblin Fruit, Halfway Down the Stairs, Mused, Phantom Kangaroo, Under/Currents, The Mom Egg, and The Lullwater Review.


"Love Letters: Feminist Pedagogy and Intercultural Literacy in the First-Year Classroom." National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Meeting. San Juan, PR (November 2014).

"You Remind Me Who I Am: Exploring Feminist Subjectivity in the Unraveling of Dementia." National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Meeting. Cincinnati, OH (November 2013).

"Books and Islands: Louise Erdrich’s Journey to/through Ojibwemowin." South Atlantic Modern Languages Association Annual Meeting. Durham, NC (November 2012).

"Advancing Women’s Leadership on a Catholic Campus." National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Meeting. Atlanta, GA (November 2011).

"Lippy Women: Combating Pornography and Censorship on a Catholic Campus." National Association for Women in Catholic Higher Education (NAWCHE) Biennial Meeting. Seattle University (June 2011).

"Literature and the 'Real World': Re-designing the Senior Seminar in Light of Student Learning Outcomes, Department Culture, and Institutional Mission." Teaching of Literature Division session on Teaching the Senior Seminar. Modern Languages Association (MLA) Annual Meeting. Los Angeles, CA (January 2011).

"Art, Sex, and Censorship on a Catholic Campus: Navigating the Politics of Sexual Representation." National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Meeting. Denver, CO (November 2010).

"Returning to a Place That Never Was: Traversals and Local Lessons in Women’s Studies and 'the Disciplines'." Canadian Women’s Studies Association /l'association canadienne des etudes sur les femmes Annual Meeting. Ottawa, ON (June 2009).

"'So we can talk to you even though we are dead': Louise Erdrich's Sacralization of the Book." Reception, Transformation, and Transgression: The 14th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature, and Culture. Aarhus University. Aarhus, Denmark (October 2008).