“His reading has done him no harm, for he has fought as well as read.”
— Jane Austen —
Professor Bob Shenk wrote his dissertation in the Medieval/Renaissance tradition of moral philosophy as it underlies the drama; it was published as The Sinners Progress: A Study of Madness in English Renaissance Drama. Dr. Shenk has also published articles on Medieval Romance, Ben Jonson, and John Bunyan. At UNO, he continues his work in earlier English literature: he regularly teaches Milton, and occasionally teaches Shakespeare.
Dr. Shenk is also an expert in writing. He took special seminars in technical writing, classical rhetoric and modern rhetoric from experts in each field before being hired at UNO in 1985. In 1990 he published The Naval Institute Guide to Naval Writing. This book, now in its third edition, has become the standard commercial guide to writing in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Shenk followed on this work by conducting several professional seminars on naval writing. At UNO, Shenk teaches technical writing and technical editing. His articles on technical writing have appeared in Rhetoric Review, The Journal of Professional and Technical Communication, Business Communication Quarterly, and elsewhere.
Shenk unites his interest in literature and writing by teaching “Rhetoric and the Renaissance.” This graduate course studies the 2000-year tradition of classical rhetoric as understood and employed by such eminent Renaissance figures as Milton, Shakespeare, Erasmus, Bacon and Donne.
Shenk also teaches courses in the classics and the Bible as literature, having published substantial articles both on the Odyssey and on the Bible. He has frequently been asked to teach the department’s graduate course in “Premodern Sources of English Literature,” and has twice taught a junior-senior course on “The Trojan War in Literature.”
A retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Shenk spent some eleven years on active naval duty, part of that service on destroyers and river patrol boats in Vietnam, and the rest of it as a professor at two service academies. Building on this background, Shenk has put together several naval-related literary projects, including a co-authored biography of Admiral Dan Gallery; an edition of Admiral Gallery’s early naval letters; and an edition of World War II naval memoirs by fine American writers called Authors at Sea, which was a selection of the History Book Club. In November of 2012, his interdisciplinary effort, a naval history entitled America’s Black Sea Fleet: The U.S. Navy Amidst War and Revolution, 1919-1923, was published by the Naval Institute Press. This award-winning book has since been reissued in paperback.
As contrast, for some twelve years, Shenk coordinated a contemporary church choir across the lake from UNO in Mandeville. In 2005, he wrote a script for a musical based on the famous story “The Other Wise Man” by Henry van Dyke. With Chris Carey of Tulane Summer Lyric Theater playing the lead, this musical was produced locally by members of this choir and others; Shenk accompanied on piano and directed the music.