OGDEN, Utah – Hal Crimmel plans to use literature to bring the American wilderness to life for students at the University of Salzburg in Austria.
Crimmel, an English professor at Weber State University, has been selected a Fulbright Scholar to Austria for spring 2004. He will spend a semester teaching three courses at the University of Salzburg.
In addition to an advanced writing course, Crimmel will teach a course on perceptions of wilderness and a course that studies American literature from an ecocritical perspective. Ecocriticism, a relatively new field that has emerged over the past decade, explores how different cultures construct nature and how these constructions are treated in various literary genres.
“So much of American literature deals with the outdoors and nature,” Crimmel says. His Austrian students will be introduced to such American classics as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Thoreau’s Walden. Crimmel describes Walden as a “great American classic because it goes a long way in explaining American cultural values, and provides insight into many of the issues present today in American society.”
Crimmel is excited about interacting with students who will bring different perspectives to the classroom. “I think it makes you a better teacher to consider other viewpoints,” he says.
His selection by the Fulbright committee culminated an eight-month long application process that began last fall. The committee chose him based on his proposal, “Lecturing on Ecocritical Approaches to American Literature.”
Teaching in Austria will give Crimmel a chance to live and teach in a country where he says he feels at home. He spent a year there while in college and worked in the Austrian Alps for three years earlier in his career.
When he returns, Crimmel plans to draw on his experiences to offer similar courses to WSU students. For example, he’s already had preliminary conversations with the Honors Department about teaching an ecocritical course.
Since 1986, seven Weber State professors have received Fulbright scholarships, including Crimmel. The U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 scholars and professionals each year to more than 140 countries to lecture or conduct research in a variety of academic and professional fields. The late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas proposed the international educational exchange program to the U.S. Congress in 1945 as a vehicle for promoting “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world.” President Harry S. Truman signed the program into law in 1946.
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