Naseeb Shaheen Memorial Lecture Series

About The Shaheen Memorial Lecture Series

The Shaheen Memorial Lecture Series was established after the death, in 2009, of Dr. Naseeb Shaheen, who was a professor in the English Department at the University of Memphis for many years. Dr. Shaheen wrote extensively about early modern literature, chiefly Shakespeare. His books on biblical references in Shakespeare's plays (1999, 2002) and Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1976) remain the definitive work in this field. He also published a two-volume Pictorial History of Ramallah (Palestine) (1992, 2006). In addition to his scholarly work, Dr. Shaheen was a noted philanthropist and collector of pre-King James English Bibles.

This year's lecture is co-sponsored by the Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities, the Rhodes College Creative Writing Program, and the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment. 

The Tenth Annual Naseeb Shaheen Memorial Lecture

"Shipping Containers"

The Department of English is pleased to welcome Professor Stephanie Burt of Harvard University. Prof. Burt is the author of three poetry collections, Belmont, Parallel Play, and Popular Music, and several collections of critical works. Her essay collection Close Calls with Nonsense was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times Book Review, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, The Believer, and Boston Review.

How can modern shipping containers — those icons of manufacturing, convenience, standardization and capital, efficient ways to move cargo over the seas — help us understand the ancient, small–scale art of lyric poetry? Supposedly interchangeable, and international, shipping containers change their meaning once they reach their destinations and what they hold becomes clear; in sites and in cultures from Singapore and Auckland to Baltimore and San Francisco, reused containers become ways for people to live in new ways, inherited forms where the personal meets the imposed. Containers are like modern poems, in this way and in others. Twenty-first century poets even address this influential, too-little-noticed form directly and by name — and even when they do not, the shipping container and its history offers fruitful analogies for the international work of lyric poetry, for what it can do and for what it contains.

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019: Reception at 5:30 p.m. and Lecture at 6:00 p.m.
River Room (300), University Center, University of Memphis

Past Shaheen Lecturers


Hannibal Hamlin, Professor of English, Ohio State University
"Seven Types of Allusion: Texts Talking with Texts from Shakespeare to the Present"


Yolanda Pierce, Professor and Dean, Howard University School of Divinity
"I have shaken rivers out of my eyes: Black Poetry and Prophetic Rage"


William J. Maxwell, Professor of English and African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis
"Born-Again, Seen-Again James Baldwin: State Surveillance, Afro-Pessimism, and the Literary History of Black Lives Matter."


Nicholas Watson, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English, Harvard University
"The Word of God in the Mother Tongue, or Why most of what we assume about the history of Bible translation is wrong."


Paul Stevens, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Early Modern Literature and Culture, University of Toronto
"Churchill's War Horse: Children's Literature and the Pleasures of War"


Achsah Guibbory, Ann Whitney Olin Prof. of English, Barnard College
"British Israelism: Three Centuries of a Forgotten History"


Katherine Bassard, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University
"Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible"


Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew Language and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley
"The King James Bible and the Question of Eloquence"


Debora Shuger, Distinguished Professor of English, UCLA
"The Girls of Little Gidding: The Forgotten Masterpiece of Radical Feminism"



10/26/17       "Conversations Across Concentrations"
10/14/16       "Reading Resistance: Bodies, Lessons, Movements"
10/16/15       "Keepin' it Real: The Languages of Authenticity"
9/26/14         "Producing Heroes"