This is part of a series of flash interviews with the English Department faculty. Each post will feature a faculty member who answers five questions that tell us a little about who they are and what they do.
Jonathan Imber Shaw reads and teaches widely. His area of academic specialization is 20th century American literature. His PhD (English, New York University 2007) focused on the postmodern American novel and discourses of cultural and political affiliation. He has published article-length critical and theoretical work in Twentieth Century Literature, MELUS, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, Southern Literary Journal, ATQ, and elsewhere. He sits on the editorial board of The Journal of Dracula Studies. His current research examines the emergence of punk, as an aesthetic form and a cultural mode, in relation to the postmodern. He lives in Philadelphia with his family, his dog, and his coffee pot.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I’m from right here in Kutztown. Born and raised.
Q: What made you decide to teach?
A: My father and his sister were public school teachers—he taught high school English, focusing on American literature. Looks like I’ve followed him into the family business. And as most often happens in higher ed, Kutztown U chose me. It’s where the job happened for me, right out of the box from grad school. NYU to Berks County.
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is both my favorite American novel and the best novel ever written. Melville’s Moby-Dick and Ford’s Parade’s End are also strong contenders. Not sure I have a favorite period—I’m increasingly suspicious of periods, and especially of national canons. But certainly the decades between WWII and the fall of the Berlin Wall are the terrain I know best and can do the best job of covering in courses.
Q: What is your favorite hobby?
A: This question assumes that I have time for anything else but work. I try to fit in a few hours every week for watching film and video and looking at art and listening to loud music with my wife and kids. We talk politics a lot, but that’s not necessarily enjoyable; it’s a necessity. I really like sitting in the quiet with my dog.
Q: Any advice for students?
A: Read your face off. Read some history. Read some poems. Get enough sleep. Then read some more.