Jeff Birkenstein named Fulbright scholar
Fulbright Teaching and Research Award recipient Prof. Jeff
Birkenstein, Ph.D., is soon on his way to Petrozavodsk, in western
Russia, where he will teach English and research the modern short
story in the land most famous for the art form.
The Fulbright Program’s highly competitive grants fund
international educational exchange for students, scholars,
teachers, professionals, scientists and artists.
Birkenstein’s grant takes him to Petrozavodsk State
University’s Institute of Foreign Languages, where he will lead
advanced courses in English and teach courses on Russian and
American short story literature.
“Nearly all major modern English-language short story writers
… have been influenced by Russian writers,” explains
Birkenstein. “Thus, to teach the modern short story is to teach
the Russian short story as well. If a deeper understanding of
the genre is the goal, then Russian short stories are
inextricable from the American version of the genre.”
Birkenstein also will conduct joint research with Igor
Krasnov, a professor with whom he connected during a 2012 visit
to Petrozavodsk. They will explore best practices for teaching
the history of the modern short story across cultures and how
authors from different countries have mined the common
experiences of life to produce structurally similar, yet
culturally distinct, stories. Their focus will be on the use of
food as a narrative device in the short story.
Part of being a Fulbright Scholar is being a cultural
ambassador. His global outlook was piqued by his family.
“When I was 14, my grandparents took me on a trip to Central
Europe, including Hungary, Czechoslovakia (then both Communist)
and Germany. The world opened up to me then, and I realized that
people are people everywhere and cannot be neatly fitted into
blocks of people with simplistic and shared ideologies.”
Birkenstein is one of two Saint Martin’s faculty members to
be named to the 2013 Fulbright Scholar Program. Education Prof.
Dan Windisch was selected for the Fulbright Specialist Program
roster as an education and counseling specialist.