Spanning the field of English education and multiple humanities disciplines, Shelby’s broad research interests include literature pedagogy, approaches to literary interpretation, the reception of classical texts, current revivals of mid-twentieth century American theatre, and British literature of the long nineteenth century.

His doctoral project investigates how Pride and Prejudice is taught in UK secondary schools and, more specifically, the ways in which the teaching of Austen’s novel can serve as a test case to understand how knowledge operates in a literature class and what kinds of knowledge a student needs to read and interpret a work of literature. In addition to his doctoral research, he is revising a manuscript on reviving literary knowledge in English education in the US. He is also part of a research team (led by Professor Victoria Elliott) conducting a scoping review of methods used to study the teaching of literature in secondary education. A first-generation college student and a product of Mississippi public (state) schools, Shelby aspires to make literary education accessible to students through his research and teaching.

Shelby Knighten graduated valedictorian from the School of Education at the University of Mississippi, where he was a Taylor Medalist and a fellow of the inaugural cohort of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. A member of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Shelby defended his senior thesis on the need for a coherent high school literature curriculum in the United States and the current sources of incoherency that hinder this goal. During his final semester at UM, Shelby was awarded the university’s outstanding student teacher award from the Mississippi Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.

After completing his BAEd. in English with additional licensure in French and theatre, Shelby taught in Mississippi public schools. He has teaching experience in all secondary age groups in both city and county schools. As a literature teacher for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, his classes achieved a 100 percent course pass rate based on composite marks from the IB’s series of assessments. Most recently, Shelby wrote the English curriculum and part of the science curriculum for Team 36, an organization he helped charter as an undergraduate at UM which provided ACT preparation classes to students in under-resourced schools in Mississippi.

During the summer holidays, Shelby undertook graduate work at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. His work was supported by Phi Kappa Phi’s Love of Learning Grant, the Methodist Foundation of Mississippi Scholarship, and Bread Loaf memorial scholarships in honor of John M. Kirk, Jr. and Charles Orr. He completed his master’s degree in English at Bread Loaf’s Lincoln College campus, Oxford University, this past summer as an inaugural Roxanne McCormick Leighton Scholar.

His DPhil in the Department of Education is generously funded by the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership of the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council.

Shelby is a proud member of the honor societies of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and Pi Delta Phi.


Knighten, S. R. “Mausoleum, Museum, or Menagerie?: A 2022 Survey of West End Revivals of Classic American Texts” (under review, Theatre Annual: A Journal of Theatre and Performance in America)

Knighten, S. R. “Like Father, Like Son? Reading & Rereading Homer’s Odyssey in Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey.” Classical World, vol. 116, no. 1, Nov. 2022, pp. 51–73.