Linda Shenk


Office:233 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA
Office Hours:MF 1-2; WF 11-12; and by appointment


Note: Email is the fastest, most effective way to contact me!

Courses I Regularly Teach

Engl 225: Survey of British Literature to 1800
Engl 370: Shakespeare
Engl 540: Drama
Engl 546: Issues in the Study of Literature


Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
M.A., University of Alaska Fairbanks
B.A., James Madison University

Research Areas

Early modern drama, particularly Shakespeare; Queen Elizabeth I as a learned queen; late sixteenth-century international politics and diplomacy; storytelling; participatory action research; resilient, sustainable cities.

About My Teaching

As a scholar, I examine the ways in which narrative participates—both lightheartedly and pragmatically—in real-world situations, and this balance of pragmatics, fun, and analysis rests at the center of my teaching. My background in theater allows me to do creative staging activities with my classes, but I also have developed particular reading techniques that translate into effective strategies for writing and giving presentations across disciplines. One graduating student stated on the course evaluation that this technique “was one of the best concepts I learned at ISU—[it] helped in my reading analysis, helped in my writing/speeches, helped get me a job.” My students can expect to get up on their feet to stage a scene, write copious analytical comments in their books, discover new facets of their own innate creativity, and learn more pragmatic skills than they ever dreamed they would find in a literature course.

How I Came to Teach What I Teach

My love of drama, and Shakespeare specifically, began when I played the role of Ophelia in my high school’s production of Hamlet at the Folger Shakespeare Theater’s High School Competition. From then on, I was hooked! I changed my college undergraduate double-major in International Business and French to a triple-major in English, French, and Theater. Over my years in college, I enjoyed performing such roles as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew. Currently, I still enjoy helping with local Shakespeare productions such as the 2016 production of As You Like It.

In the classroom, I share with students my love of performance even as my scholarship has somehow wound its way back to my International Business roots, allowing me to pursue my fascination with diplomacy, international relations, and social capital.

Recent Publications


Learned Queen: The Image of Elizabeth I in Politics and Poetry. Palgrave Macmillan: 2010.

The first book to examine Queen Elizabeth I as a “learned prince,” Learned Queen reveals a rather startling phenomenon: Elizabeth’s educated status was crucial to England’s burgeoning role as an international power. Examining Elizabeth’s own demonstrations of erudition alongside literary works of such political luminaries as Sir Philip Sidney and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, my research reveals how poetry, foreign relations, and intellectual culture are far more integrated than we have hitherto imagined. From these connections emerges a methodology that places Elizabethan political culture and poetry fully on the transnational stage.

Co-edited Collection

Elizabeth I and the ‘Sovereign Arts’: Essays in Literature, History, and Culture. Eds. Donald Stump, Linda Shenk, and Carole Levin. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2011.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

Shenk, L., Anderson, N., & Passe, U. Youth and Engaged Science for Sustainable Cities: ‘East High Cares’ and an Iowa State Research Team. Proceedings for Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication: Confronting the challenges of public participation in environmental, planning and health decision-making.” Forthcoming.

Passe, U., Shenk, L., & et al. “Methodologies to Study Human-Microclimate Interaction for Resilient, Smart City Decision-making. Proceedings for Passive Low Energy Architecture Conference. Forthcoming.

“Shakespeare’s Comic Topicality in Love’s Labour’s Lost. English Literary Renaissance. Forthcoming.

“What Would Helen of Troy Say: Using the Early Modern Schoolroom to Spark Modern Students’ Imaginative Participation” in Creating the Premodern in the Postmodern Classroom. Eds. Anna Riehl Bertolet and Carole Levin. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Forthcoming.

“Essex’s International Agenda in 1595 and His Device of the Indian Prince” in Essex: The Life and Times of an Elizabethan Courtier. Eds. Annaliese Connolly and Lisa Hopkins. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013.

“Elizabeth’s Divine Wisdom: St. Paul, Conformity, and John Lyly’s Endymion” in Elizabeth I and the Sovereign Arts’: Essays in Literature, History, and Culture. Eds. Donald Stump, Linda Shenk, and Carole Levin, 2011.

“The Enduring Significance of Elizabeth I and Her Sovereign Arts.” Co-authored with Carole Levin and Donald Stump as the Introduction for Elizabeth I and the ‘Sovereign Arts’: Essays in Literature, History, and Culture, 2011.

“Queen Solomon: An International Elizabeth I in 1569” in Queens and Power in Medieval and Early Modern England. Eds. Robert Bucholz and Carole Levin. University of Nebraska Press, 2009.

“Gown Before Crown: Scholarly Abjection and Academic Entertainment Under Queen Elizabeth I.” Lead essay in Academic Drama in English, 1500–1700. Eds. Jonathan Walker and Paul Streufert. Ashgate, 2008.

“‘To Love and Be Wise’: the Earl of Essex, Humanist Court Culture, and England’s Learned Queen.” Special issue 16: “The Long 1590s.” Early Modern Literary Studies. 13.2 (2007): 1–27.

Current Research

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.

Outside of the University

I can be found outside, enjoying local parks or going camping with my two children and our three dogs.