Professor Shaw was born and raised in Maine and got his Ph.D. in Russian Literature from the University of Kansas. His area of specialization is Twentieth-Century Russian Literature, with a sub-specialization in East European Literature, especially Hungarian and Czech prose. His current research focuses on the writings of the Hungarian novelist and essayist George Konrád.
“I had a very happy and somewhat unconventional childhood. Instead of playing football or shooting hoops with me, my father would set me down and make me watch old movies on TV with him. As a result, by the age of ten I had an excellent knowledge of American films and was even recruited to help solve a local murder case after evidence pointed to the culprit being a Buster Keaton fan. In Maine we had seven different types of snow when I was growing up, so I never went hungry. But the long winters meant lots of time spent inside, so my mother would gather us around the Hammond chord organ and we would spend hours singing such tunes as “My Wild Irish Rose” and “She’s Only a Bird in a Silver Cage.” I believe my interest in literature came about through a children’s card game called “Authors,” which had once been given to me by a spiteful aunt. Since it was the only game I ever won at consistently, my family saw in it an early indication of where life would take me. But the job at the card factory never worked out, so I went on to a series of other occupations that included stockroom boy, bookstore clerk and underpaid announcer at a number of mid-level radio stations across the country. Fortunately, somewhere along the way I fell under the spell of all things Russian–and that was it. Not only was the language grand and glorious, but the Russian winters reminded me of my childhood in Maine, the songs evoked personal memories of joy and sadness, and the borscht and pirozhki warmed my palate and my soul. Nowadays Russian vodka takes me back to all those wonderful parties we had in grad school. Anyway, it was love at first sight and I’ve never looked back. Everyone should be so lucky.”
In his spare time, Professor Shaw enjoys playing jazz ukulele and listening to old songs by Édith Piaf, Irène Bordoni and Carmen Miranda. He’s a big fan of the Marx Brothers and Rita Hayworth, loves Italian food, and secretly does impressions of colleagues. His favorite cities are Budapest, Moscow and Paris. He also is something of a language junkie and loves decorating his door with pithy quotes from obscure languages, like Irish and Romanian. His heroes are Dostoevsky and Bugs Bunny. Birds and violets hold a special place in his heart.