A bespectacled man softly smiles at his desk. He wears a light blue shirt and is surrounded by overflowing bookshelves.
CAS Magazine: Faculty

Paradise Found: Book Recommendations with Daniel Shore

The bedrock of any liberal arts education is reading, analyzing and engaging with diverse texts across a multitude of academic disciplines and traditions. The books that students pore over in Lauinger become deeply personal texts after graduation, sticking with alumni for the rest of their lives. In this series, we ask professors to give us a tour of their offices and, more importantly, their bookshelves, sharing the books that have shaped their academic journeys, what they’re reading now and their recommendations for your next trip to the library. 

Professor Daniel Shore is a specialist in early modern literature whose research demands thoughtful engagement with some of the most important works in the English language. Since studying John Milton as a graduate student at Harvard, Shore has become an internationally recognized expert on the poet and his seminal work, Paradise Lost. Shore’s first book, Milton and the Art of Rhetoric, explored Milton’s development of novel rhetorical strategies amidst a widespread distrust of classical rhetoric in the 17th century. 

In addition to immersing himself in texts written hundreds of years ago, Shore’s research points to the future – he has published on both linguistics and the digital humanities. One of Shore’s projects, Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, is an interactive, collaborative, digital reconstruction of the Early Modern social network, built around the epicenter of philosopher Francis Bacon. His second book, Cyberformalism, presented a groundbreaking approach to understanding the history of language and culture with the help of growing digital archives and advanced search tools. 

Shore, who is in his second year serving as the chair of the Department of English, is currently working on two book projects: The Limits of Experience in the Seventeenth Century and Language After the Human. Though quite different in their aims and topics, both projects respond to a posthumanist movement away from the traditional human subject as the locus of knowledge and agency. We visited Shore’s office in New North to discuss his passion for books. 

A collection of books on a shelf. The most prominent is Milton's Paradise Lost.

A stack of books on the shelves of Prof. Shore’s office.

What is a book that everyone should read?

Forgive me for being slippery, but there is no such book that “everyone” should read. The true pursuit is what Milton called “promiscuous” reading, and to that pursuit no single book can be essential. But also: Middlemarch by George Eliot.

What is a book that you revisit every year?

One of my teachers, Stephen Booth, described John Milton’s Paradise Lost as the greatest pleasure machine ever created by a single human being, and after teaching it for more than a decade I remain inclined to agree. Its pleasures range from the truly awesome scope of its subject matter – God’s creation in its entirety and the causes of human suffering – to the local eventfulness of each sentence, drawn out from one pentameter line into the next.  I try to teach and to introduce students to Milton’s epic whenever possible, and I am grateful for the chance to evangelize on its behalf here.

What is a book that inspired your academic journey?

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens made me want to devote my life to literature. As a young person I identified quite strongly with the protagonist, Pip, in ways that now baffle me. My identification was far from auspicious, since the great expectations of the title come to naught. Pray that my “academic journey” does not follow suit. 

What is the best new book that you’ve read in the past year?

After a period of dissatisfaction with contemporary novels, I found the first two books of Marlon James’ Darkstar Trilogy — Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Moon Witch, Spider King — vivid, experimental and enchanting. They locate fantasy in an imagined Africa just before the arrival of European slave traders.

What is the perfect book for the beach?

I sometimes try to read novels at the beach and usually fail. The brief, fragmentary essays of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia feel suitable. Read one, reflect on damaged life, stare at the sea.

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