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 prostheses in American literature and culture of the Great War era.
- BA, University of Utah, 1996
- MA, University of South Carolina, 1999
- PhD, University of Florida, 2005
Research and/or Creative Interests
For most of my career I have researched and published in the general (and often intertwined) fields of American modernism, gender studies, and southern literature. At present, however, my research focuses on American literature of the First World War. I am now completing a book that explores the role of prostheses in postwar American literature and culture.
I teach American literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the past I have taught upper-division and/or graduate courses in avant-garde modernism, the history of modern sexuality (as reflected in American literature), and World War I-era literature. I also frequently teach 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 courses to be discussion-based, I frequently provide short lectures at the beginning of the class period in order to provide a helpful historical/cultural context for what ensues. Since most of the material I teach is at least 100 years old, I ask the students to play on the literature's 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 X?
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 expand, for better or for worse, before 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, mountain bike, and spend time with my family. I also like traveling. 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! I hope the students will take their work seriously but not themselves too seriously.
What's something about you that might surprise your students?
For the most part I'm remarkably unremarkable. I once spilled a hot bowl of soup on the former Poet Laureate of the United States. My budding poetry career tanked shortly after.