Dr. Nasseb Shaheen, a English professor at the University of Memphis, passed away this last Friday-Saturday. I knew him only a little, having never taken an class from him in my nearly five years there, but I think everyone who knew him has a Dr. Shaheen story to tell.
If he liked you a little, I was told early on, he might let you see his massive collection of pre-King James Bibles, and before long, he did invite me to see them. Geneva Bibles, Bishop’s Bibles, countless editions, many rebound with his imprint.
While probably best known for his extensive cataloging of all the references to scripture in the works of Shakespeare, I most associate him with the Bible as Literature class that he taught to undergrads. He often taught in the classroom directly across from my shared office, where I could hear him, with his distinctive and unforgettable voice, through two doors, discussing the JEDP theory or the beauty of the Letter to the Hebrews. I tried to audit that class for years, but my schedule always bumped into his regular TTH time, and I’d always justify waiting another semester. I felt short-sighted when I left, and doubly so now.
There were a lot of weekends, especially when I was writing the dissertation, when I’m pretty sure the only people in Patterson Hall were Dr. Shaheen and me, both working late, and we would often stumble into each other in the hallways, surprised that anyone else was around at whatever strange hour it was. He regularly walked through the entire building in the evening, turning off lights in classrooms on 3 floors to save money for the university, and when he would get to the lone light in my office, I would hear, “Duncan!” or “Michael!” out of the darkness, checking to see if it was indeed me.
I last saw him this summer – June or July – just before I moved. He congratulated me on my new TT position and expressed a considerable amount of horror that I was going to be teaching 4/4.