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About Linda Shenk

As a scholar, I am following a path that somewhat resembles those of the poet-statesmen I study. These men—such as Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and Sir Philip Sidney—wrote poetry alongside and connected to their engaged political work as diplomats, political counselors, and soldiers. Their movement across our post-modern disciplinary boundaries helped coin the term “Renaissance men” —polymaths who bring together seemingly diverse knowledge sets. Though I could not claim the stature of a Sidney or Devereux, I, too, am interested in creating a transdisciplinary space as an engaged humanist who integrates story, politics, and science. I conduct research both on early modern literature within the context of diplomacy and international politics as well as on participatory action research for sustainable cities. Both these strands of my work share the common thread of narrative as crucial to fostering what social scientist Robert D. Putnam calls “bridging social capital.” In my current literary scholarship, I examine how a series of late Elizabethan plays responded to the specter of a polarized and racked Europe. These plays navigated the anxieties brought on by increasingly entrenched religio-political positions while also exploring the ethical complexities inherent in efforts to bring peace and civic cohesion. In turn, my interest in narrative within the large vistas of international politics underwrites the extension of my work, one could say, from “Shakespeare to sustainability.” Alongside my traditional scholarship in literature, I am serving on one of the four research teams at ISU funded by the Presidential Initiative for Data-Driven Science (PI: Ulrike Passe). Working in collaboration with colleagues from four ISU colleges, I work as an engaged humanist who bridges the worlds of community participation and the tools of data-driven science for creating resilient, sustainable cities. My particular focus is on storytelling and empowering youth from marginalized populations to serve as community leaders.


Present Associate Processor, Iowa State University Department of English

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Contact Information

233 Ross
527 Farm House Ln
Ames, IA 50011-1054


Book Chapters (5)

Articles (2)

Conference Proceedings (2)