Department of Social Science
Professor of Religious Studies & Women's Studies
"Students here are truly enthusiastic about learning," says Professor Jennifer Rycenga. "They're eager to know history, the history of others. They're not jaded about learning....and that makes them a pleasure to teach."
Professor Rycenga's courses draw on her multidisciplinary background in religion, American religious history, feminist theory, lesbian history, and feminist analyses of music. She holds two Masters degrees in Religious Studies, and Music Composition, as well as a Ph.D. in Religion & the Arts.
The Women's Studies program benefits greatly from a continued association with Professor Rycenga, who teaches primarily in her home department of Comparative Religious Studies. She regularly teaches in Women's Studies, however, and recently finished a two-year term as Coordinator of Women's Studies.
A prolific writer and researcher, Professor Rycenga has just seen publication of her latest book, Queering the Popular Pitch, edited with Sheila Whiteley. The collection also includes her essay, "Is This Desire?: Queering Large-scale Form in Rock Music." The book's essays address "changing debates within gay, lesbian and queer discourse in relation to the dissemination of musical texts--performance, cultural production, sexual meaning--situating music within the broader patterns of culture."
She is currently working on a cultural biography of white abolitionist educator Prudence Crandall (1803-1890), and two edited volumes: one on Sexualities and Knowledges with Margie Waller, and That Word is Liberty: Essays on Matilda Joslyn Gage with Carol Anderson.
Prof. Rycenga is an avid birder, with a North American Life List of over 600 species. Ask her about your backyard visitors ...
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Ph.D. Religion & Music, Graduate Theological Union & University of California at Berkeley, 1992.
M.A. Religious Studies, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut
M.A. Music Composition, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
B.A. Yale University, 1980
WOMS 101. The Study of Women
WOMS 169. Feminist Perspectives on Sexualities / Lesbian History & Culture
RELS 131/WOMS 131. Religion, Gender & Sexuality (syllabus)
RELS 191. Religion in America (syllabus)
Most Recent Publications:
Queering the Popular Pitch, ed. with Sheila Whiteley. New York: Routledge, 2006. Also "Is This Desire?: Queering Large-scale Form in Rock Music," 235-247.
"Cosmology Hopping: Engaging and Avoiding Controversy in the Religious Studies Classroom," in "Spotlight on Teaching," ed. Cynthia Humes, Religious Studies News, Fall 2006.
"A Greater Awakening: Women's Intellect as a Factor in Early Abolitionist Movements, 1824-1834," Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 21:2 (Fall 2005), 31-59.
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Macmillan, 2004.
"Roundtable Discussion: What is the Future of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Studies in Religion?" Culture and Religion 5:2 (2004): 267-281.
“Religion, Spirituality, and Popular Music.” Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume One, ed. John Shepherd. London: Cassell, 2003, 338-345.
“Queerly Amiss: Sexuality and the Logic of Adorno’s Dialectics.” in Adorno: A Critical Reader, ed. Nigel Gibson and Andrew Rubin. Oxford UK: Blackwell, 2002.
“Tales of Change within the Sound: Form, Lyrics, and Philosophy in the Music of Yes.” in Progressive Rock Reconsidered, ed. Kevin Holm-Hudson. New York: Routledge, 2001.
“‘Dropping in for the Holidays:’ Christmas as Commercial and Evangelical Ritual at the Precious Moments Chapel.” in God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture, ed. Katherine McCarthy and Eric Mazur. New York: Routledge, 2000.
Frontline Feminisms: Women, War & Resistance, ed. with Marguerite Waller. New York: Routledge, 2000. Also “Maria Stewart, Black Abolitionist, and the Idea of Freedom,” pp. 297-324.
“Anguished Shouts and Religious Echoes: Octavia Butler’s Kindred in the Religious Studies Classroom.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 11:2 (Winter 2000), 185-189.
"Passionate Struggle is Not an Intuition: An Argument and Appreciation of Mary Daly." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain and Ireland Chapter of Feminist Theology, 24 (May 2000): 31-35.
"Mary Daly: Grand Agitator and Revolting Hag" co-written with Carol Anderson, Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain and Ireland Chapter of Feminist Theology 24 (May 2000), 9-12.^Back to top
Professional & Community Service
Campus Climate Committee, SJSU University Executive Sub-committee, September 1997 - present
Mosaic Multicultural Center Advisory Board, January 1999 - present
Sabbatical Leaves Committee, College of Social Science, August 2005-December 2005
Search Committee, Liberal Studies Program, AY 2003-2004; Comparative Religious Studies and American Studies, AY 2004-2005; Women's Studies Program, September 2005-March 2006
Research Grants Committee, College of Social Science, August 2004-May 2005
Sabbatical Leave Committee, College of Humanities and the Arts, August 2003-May 2004
Retention, Tenure and Promotion Committee, Humanities Department and Comparative Religious Studies Program, HAY 2001-2003.
Executive Board, March 1995-May 2000, California Faculty Association, San José State Chapter
Faculty Advisor, Queer Revolution, January 1999-May 2000
Organizer for February 2000 campus appearance of Barbara Smith; organizer for April 1999 campus appearance of Harry Hay; organizer for November 1998 campus appearance of Peter Hudis; organizer for November 1997 campus appearance of Sarah White and Georgiana Williams; co-organizer for October 1996 campus appearance of Jesse Jackson, Dolores Huerta, and Eleanor Smeal
Recent Talks & Presentations
"Prudence Crandall: Innocous Icon or Subversive Goad?" Heroism, Nationalism and Human Rights Conference, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, February 2006
“In the Footsteps of Prudence Crandall,” Prudence Crandall Museum, Canterbury, CT, May 2005
“Religion and Authority at Home: White Abolitionist Women and Marriage.” American Academy of Religion, Western Region Meeting, Tempe, Arizona, March 2005
"Students here are truly enthusiastic about learning... they're eager to know history, the history of others."
"Prudence Crandall in Illinois: A Study of Structural Exclusion and Personal Barriers in Women’s Abolitionist Activism,” Conference on Illinois History, Springfield, Illinois, October 2004
“The Same Situation: Joni Mitchell and the Women’s Liberation Movement,” Joni Mitchell Symposium, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, October 2004
“Guru Nanak and Religious Diversity” (invited speaker), Guru Nanak Day, Punjabi Studies Program, San José State University, October 2004.
Post-production discussion on tolerance, The Laramie Project (panelist), Theatre Department, San José State University, October 2004.
"Abolitionists, Spiritualists, and Exodusters: The Mythic Aura of Kansas in the Late Nineteenth-Century," American Academy of Religion, National Meeting, Atlanta, GA, November 2003, and Western Region Meeting, Davis, CA, March 2003
"Is This Desire?: Queering Large-scale Form in Rock Music," Feminist Theory and Music VII, Bowling Green, Ohio, July 2003
"Queering the Pitch, Queering the Practice: Plenary Panel Discussion," International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, July 2003
"Defying Injustice: Prudence Crandall's Abolitionist Struggle and Her Contemporary Relevance," Connecticut College, New London, CT, April 2003; and Prudence Crandall Museum, Canterbury, CT, May 2003
"Children of a Greater God: Embracing Different Spiritualities" (panelist & moderator), Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX, February 2003
"Ignite the Fires of Female Furies: Its Time for Feminist-Assisted Deicide!" (organizer & panelist), American Academy of Religion National Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, November 2002.^Back to top
“The Future of LGBT/Q Religious Studies" (roundtable), Queer Visions in the Americas conference, University of California at Santa Barbara, May 2002.
"Counter-memory and Counter-telos: A Response to Ann Burlein's Lift High the Cross" (panel), American Academy of Religion, Annual Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, November 2002
“Impulses, Inclinations, Passions: Historical Considerations Toward a Dialectics of Revolution and Sexuality.” Sexualities and Knowledges Conference, University of California, Riverside, February 2002
"Feathered Immanence: Thoughts on the Work of Lynda Sexson” (panel), American Academy of Religion, Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, November 2001
"Endless Caresses: Musical Form as Queer Exuberance in the Music of Yes." Society for Music Theory, Philadelphia, PA, November 2001
“Combating Violence: Frontline Feminisms Presentation,” Midnight Special Bookstore, Santa Monica, CA, February 2001; University of California Riverside, February 2001; Claremont Graduate University Women and Religion program, February 2001
"A Greater Awakening: Women's Intellect in the Transatlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1824-1834,” Sisterhood and Slavery: Transatlantic Antislavery and Women’s Rights Conference, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, Yale University, New Haven CT, October 2001
“Agitation as Education: Race, Religion and Class in the Pedagogy of Prudence Crandall,” Robert Leavens Lectureship, Mills College, Oakland, CA (February 2001); Five College Women’s Studies Center, Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA (February 2001); Yale University Institute for Advanced Study of Religion, New Haven, CT (March 2001); Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT (April 2001); Montana State University, Bozeman, MT (July 2001); University of California, San Diego, Women’s Center (February 2002)
"Teaching 'Religion in America'" (panelist), Yale Northeast Regional Faculty Conference on Religion and American History, New Haven, CT, December 2000
Five College Women’s Studies Research Grant, Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, Massachussetts, for work on Prudence Crandall, Fall 2000 - Spring 2001.
" The Creole Religious Imagination in America," participant in two working conferences, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, June 1999, and Yale University Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion, December 2000.
Young Scholars in American Religion Program, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Spring 1997 - Winter 1999.
"Re-theorizing Music" project, Resident Fellowship, University of California Humanities Institute, University of California, Irvine, Fall 1994.
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