Professor Profile: Dr. Daniel Shea

by · February 16, 2015

Dr. Daniel Shea, professor of English at the Mount, is also the chair of the Division of Arts and Letters.

Recently, Knight Life got the chance to have an exclusive interview with beloved Mount professor Dr. Daniel Shea.

Knight Life: How long have you been teaching at the Mount?

Dr. Shea: I have been teaching at the Mount for ten years.

Knight Life: What was it about the Mount that drew you to the College and made you want to become a professor here?

Dr. Shea: The perfect combination of location and identity. A small liberal arts college on the banks of the Hudson River: it’s the kind of place one reads about in novels or sees in films. It’s also the kind of place that’s small enough that every student matters, so I grew to really appreciate the intellectual rigor and close connections that shape outstanding individuals.

Knight Life: What is your favorite part about teaching at the Mount?

Dr. Shea: There are really two kinds of schools. Some are so large that students become part of something much bigger than themselves, rather like being at a concert where the crowd mentality just takes over. Other kinds enable a single student to stand out, where a school’s identity and tradition and the student’s sense of self resonate. I much prefer teaching the latter, those kinds of students who see themselves as leaders within a community: their assurance and ambition truly reflect what Plutarch meant by education being the lighting of a fire.

Knight Life: What is your favorite class that you have taught at the Mount and why?

Dr. Shea: That’s hard to say. Anything dealing with Joyce or Homer is always fantastic. Sometimes, I experiment with different ways in which I can make connections between authors in unexpected ways. I particularly enjoy my Fairy Tales class, since every student has some experiences with these stories. Most people know there’s more going on than Disney’s latest marketing trend, so they always have something to say, whether shock at the ferocity of the early iterations or the revelations of the modern incarnations.

Knight Life: What was your favorite class you took in college and why?

Dr. Shea: It was a class called ‘Intensive Homeric Greek’: after a two-week crash course in Ancient Greek, we started to translate Homer’s Iliad on our own. We’re so used to seeing Homer’s poetry as elegant and elevated, that it was a great surprise to see how wonderfully he matched an almost palpable sense of brutality with the effortless verse. Besides, you’ve never really lived until you can curse your friends like a hubristic Achaean king.

(Right) When not in the classroom, Dr. Shea can also be found at student events like the annual Student vs. Faculty Volleyball Showdown.

Knight Life: If you were not a professor, what else could you see yourself doing?

Dr. Shea: Carpentry. There’s something satisfying about seeing an object take shape as a result of the work of one’s hands. And remember: measure twice, cut once. It ends up becoming good advice for life, really.

Knight Life: What is one of your favorite things to do on a day off?

Dr. Shea: Catch up on episodes of Doctor Who.

Knight Life: You recently became the chair of the Division of Arts and Letters, which covers the English, Hispanic Studies, Public Relations, and Media Studies programs. What is it that you are most proud of in regards to your department?

Dr. Shea: The Division of Arts and Letters is the liberal arts education writ small. Once you see how different disciplines resonate, each constituting a piece of a larger constellation, you appreciate how complete and far-reaching an education truly is.

Knight Life: Why should a student consider majoring in an Arts and Letters major?

Dr. Shea: Anyone can learn a trade; not everyone can develop the skills needed for excelling in that trade. Simply put, we prepare students for living a worthwhile life.

Knight Life: What is one piece of advice that you have for college students today?

Dr. Shea: Learn how to write! If you’re looking to advance past an entry-level position, no matter what your career, there is no skill more in demand and more capable of getting you noticed than the ability to write well.

Dr. Daniel Shea is an associate professor of English and chair of the Division of Arts and Letters.