Director of the Roth Writing Center
Assistant Professor of English
Joined Connecticut College: 2007
B.S., University of Maryland
Ph.D., University of Virginia
• 20th-century American literature • Writing and composition theory • Intersections of literature, technology and science • Literature and film • Critical theory
Before coming to Connecticut College, Steve Shoemaker taught writing, literature, and film at Harvard University and Yale University.
He wrote his dissertation at the University of Virginia on the objectivist movement in American poetry, a project that sparked a fascination with the charged historical moment of the 1930s. His course on the literature and film of the thirties investigates the period’s conjunction of radical modernization, economic depression, and rising fascism through an examination of poetry, prose and film. His introduction to American literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries examines works by Pound, Eliot, Williams, Stein, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Hurston, Chandler, Plath, Ginsberg, Morrison, Carver and Delillo, among others.
He is currently editing a book titled Thinking Poetics: Essays on George Oppen, which explores Oppen’s use of poetry as a mode of thinking, deploying formal and prosodic resources in order to test ideas. In particular, Oppen uses serial form to explore the problem “of being numerous,” that is, the question of the ethical relation between the individual and the collective. The book is scheduled to appear in spring 2009, as part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetics Series from the University of Alabama Press.
His next book project has the working title The Poetics of Embodied Mind.
Focusing particularly on literature and film, this book argues that the arts have both anticipated and reinforced many current developments in neuroscience. For centuries, the dominant tradition in Western philosophy and science treated the mind as separate and distinct from the body, but today’s brain science shows in marvelous detail that mind and body are inseparably intertwined. Many writers and artists seem to have known this all along (think, for example, of Emily Dickinson’s poem beginning “The brain is wider than the sky.”) Art is itself embodied in form, and by looking at how artistic form works we can get insight into our own forms of embodiment, our many and varied ways of being in the world. Following this approach, we can reconfigure and reenergize some of our oldest debates -literary, philosophical, and scientific - about what it means to be human: What is love? What is memory? What is a person? What is the relationship between reason and emotion? What does it mean to live an ethical life?
As director of the Roth Writing Center, Shoemaker is committed to helping students engage writing as a genuine act of thinking, a powerful means for pursuing the questions they find most compelling. In his course, ENG 300: the Theory and Practice of TeachingWriting, he introduces students to the major pedagogical theories of teaching writing and prepares them to become tutors in the Writing Center.
In spring 2008, working in cooperation with the Center for Teaching and Learning, he launched a series of workshops for faculty on the Art of Teaching Writing. These workshops have been well attended and have sparked much lively discussion among faculty members from all across the disciplines. A similar series of workshops will be offered during the 2008-2009 academic year.
As for non-academic pursuits, Shoemaker comments, “My son Nicholas, who is five, says he want to be an engineer, so Saturday mornings in winter are often devoted to building stuff out of whatever materials are ready to hand—sheets of paper, cardboard boxes and tubes, rubber bands, paper clips, duct tape, etc. During the summer, our family is enamored of all things coastal, so the focus shifts to sand, rocks, sea and sky.”
The self is no mystery, the mystery is
That there is something for us to stand on.
- George Oppen