Jeff Birkenstein with Mark Twain in Tumwater WA

Chair, English

Professor, English

Fields: Short Story, American Literature, Food and Culture Literature, Post-9/11 Literature and Culture
Ph.D., English, University of Kentucky; M.A. Teaching English as a Second Language, ibid; B.A., U.C.L.A.; M.A., English, Cal State Long Beach.

Old Main 347
5000 Abbet Way SE
Lacey, WA 98503


"There is no hiding in my classes. Students are in the middle of it. Students not only read great texts, but they create knowledge. They write and discover new things about themselves, about their topics. There are many reasons to attend a smaller school, and this is chief among them."

Jeff Birkenstein is an associate professor in, and chair of, the Department of English at Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Washington. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 2003; he has a second MA in TESOL, also from Kentucky. His first MA was from California State University, Long Beach, where he was lucky enough to study under Charles E. May, the influential short story critic After first attending Orange Coast (Community) College, he graduated from UCLA in 1993 as an English major. His major interests lie in American and world short stories; food; and, cultural criticism, especially post-9/11 narratives.

Jeff Birkenstein strives to break down any final walls between the classroom and the world. For example, watching a plane crash into New York's World Trade Center live on television led to a conference and then a class (co-taught with anthropologist David Price) and then a book: Reframing 9/11: Film, Pop Culture and the "War on Terror" (Continuum 2010), co-edited with Anna Froula (East Carolina University) and Karen Randall (University of Southampton Solent, UK). Another example: a successful eater for his entire life (except for those scorpions in Beijing), he uses these diverse experiences when teaching a course called "Food & Fiction," which has, in turn, led to more writing, more traveling, more team-teaching and, of course, more good eating. His next book, due out in Spring 2013 from Columbia UP/Wallflower is P, with his same beloved co-editors, is The Cinema of Terry Gilliam: It's a Mad World.


Recent essays

  • "Divorced from Reality: Time Bandits in Search of Fulfillment," In The Cinema of Terry Gilliam: It's a Mad World, Eds. Jeff Birkenstein, Anna Froula, Karen Randell, Columbia UP, forthcoming.
  • "The Houses that Alice Munro Built: Community in The Love of a Good Woman." In Critical Insights: Alice Munro. Ed. Charles E. May. Salem Press/EBSCO, 2012.
  • "Teaching Significant Food in Carver's Fiction." In Carver Across the Curriculum. Eds. Katherine Ashley and Paul Grant. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011.
  • "An Early Broadside: The Far Right Raids Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World." In Reframing 9/11: Film, Popular Culture and the "War on Terror." Co-edited with Anna Froula, East Carolina University, and Karen Randell, Southampton Solent University (England). Continuum, 2010.