Aaron Shaheen specializes in American literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His other academic interests include literature of the American South and gender/queer theory. He has published articles in PMLA, The Southern Literary Journal, American Literary Realism, The American Transcendental Quarterly, and The Henry James Review. He is the 2012-13 recipient of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences award for outstanding research and a current member of the University of Tennessee Press editorial board. His monograph Androgynous Democracy: Modern American Literature and the Dual-Sexed Body Politic (2010) examines the ways in which American modernists used scientific, religious, and racial notions of androgyny to formulate models of national cohesion. At present he is working on a monograph that examines the presence of prosthesis in American literature and culture of the Great War era.
Research and/or Creative Interests
For most of my career I have researched and published in the general field of gender studies, though, at present my research focuses on American literature of the First World War. I am now completing a book that explores the role of prosthesis in postwar American literature.
I leach American literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I also frequently reach both halves of the Western Humanities series, as well as Survey of American Literature and Introduction to Literary Analysis.
While I design most of my classes to be discussion-based, I frequently provide short lectures at the beginning of most classes in order to provide a helpful historical/cultural context for the discussion. Since most of the literature I teach is at least 100 years old, I ask the student to play on its historical terms, not the other way around.
Why did you become an English professor?
I learned early on in my own undergraduate studies that for every answer there are at least five more questions that spring up. I became a professor in the pursuit of the unanswerable question.
Why teach American modernism?
Most of the moderns weren't ready to give up on the concept Truth, even if they knew they would never find it. There's an earnestness to that search that is so seductive, but sometimes so heartbreaking! What better group of writers to teach undergraduates, who themselves are seeing the world expandfor better or for worsebefore their very eyes?
Outside of being a professor, what do you do for fun and/or relaxation?
In my free time I like to hike, bike, and spend time with my family. I've threatened to take up the violin, but I know all too well my aptitude for music stops at listening.
What are your expectations of students?
For me, there's nothing that beats a strong work ethic and natural curiosity. Rarely does this combination fail a student!
What's something about you that might surprise your students?
I once spilled a hot bowl of soup on the former Poet Laureate of the United States. My budding poetry career tanked shortly after.