Author Peter Swirski keen on teaching in Manila
Patricia P. Esteves (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A class with distinguished professor Peter Swirski is never bound to be boring.

The renowned author of “Ars Americana, ArsPolitica” and the bestselling “From Lowbrow to Nobrow,” steps into the class, illuminates it, and it becomes an animated, fun and memorable experience.

“I love to be entertained. I love a good story. And for my students, I’d do the same. I’d like my discussions with students to be funny, scandalized, entertaining, informative, alive, interactive.” the author told The STAR in an exclusive interview, during a brief visit in the Philippines.

The prominent author boasts of an impressive resume.

The Canadian scholar and literary critic is the author of 12 critically-acclaimed books, including National Book Award nominee Ars Americana, ArsPolitica (2010) and the staple of American popular culture studies, From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005). He has written almost a hundred articles on American literature, culture, history, politics, and society, as well as on American popular and “nobrow” culture and film. His research interests and publications also extend to interdisciplinary studies in literature and science, philosophy, aesthetics, and literary Darwinism.

An educator for 20 years, Swirski was a professor of American literature and culture at the Department of English, University of Missouri in St. Louis and the former research director at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in Finland.

He is also honorary professor in American Studies at Jinan University and honorary professor in American literature at South China University of Technology, and was previously honorary professor of American Literature at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

He is recognized as the foremost scholar on the late writer and philosopher Stanislaw Lem. Uniquely, Lem praised him on the cover of one of Swirski’s books: “Peter Swirski, a brilliant literary critic and a superb translator, deserves wide recognition as a scholar in American and Polish literatures.”

When asked about how his fascination with books began, Swirski said he began reading Lem’s works as a young child. His love for books grew from there, and has since built a career for him as a literary scholar. This also brought him around the world to lecture and teach. He hopes the same for his readers, that through his books, he is able to“broaden their horizons.”

In one of his lectures at the Center of Global Humanities, University of New England last year, where he spoke alongside the likes of Noam Chomsky, he was introduced as a Canadian citizen, born in Poland, but also half-German, quarter Ukrainian, quarter Lithuanian. Travelling through Greece while working with the United Nations, he also lived in Hungary. From Greece, he immigrated in French-Canada. Subsequently, he worked in English-Canada. He ended up heading an American Studies program in Hong Kong, where he became a Chinese citizen. He is, indeed, a citizen of the world.

Having had a storied life and a prestigious academic career, people are curious if Swirski still wants to achieve something.

Of his many hats, he is a teacher, first of all. In 2003, he was nationally honored for his teaching as favorite professor in the annual Guide to Canadian Universities.The unassuming author said his goal is to educate and he will stick to that goal for as long as he can.

“I am an educator, 24/7. Whether it’s a book or in my classroom, I raise the education standards,”Swirski said.

Swirski, who is currently an esteemed professor in Hong Kong and China, said he’s keen on teaching young people here in Manila.

He’s interested in the Filipino culture because of its American influence, which, up to this day, is evident in the Filipino pop culture, the English language as a major language, movies, books and “American Idol.”

If ever given the chance to teach here and give lectures, one thing he promises is that he will keep his students glued to his discussions.

What topics could pique Filipinos’ interests?

Swirski said Hollywood, cowboys and Indians, nuances of terrrorism, Al-Qaeda and, of course, world politics.

He would also talk about history, firearms and rap music.

One thing that could be a hit with young students is Black culture.

“We don’t often consume Black culture through jazz but there is a Black man in the White House so it’s fairly interesting. The bottomline is I’m happy to get young people interested. To me, knowledge is priceless,” Swirski said.

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