Peter Swirski

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Peter Swirski
Peter Swirski European TV3 2009.jpg
Peter Swirski interviewed for European TV, 2009.
Born February 27, 1966
Nationality Canadian
Occupation Scholar, Literary Critic, Author

Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic featured in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of fourteen books, including the prize-winning Ars Americana, Ars Politica (2010) and the staple of American popular culture studies From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005). Some of his other well-known studies include American Utopia and Social Engineering (2011), Literature, Analytically Speaking (2010), History as Prophecy in Contemporary American Literature (2009) and Of Literature and Knowledge (2007). He is recognized as the foremost scholar on the late writer and philosopher Stanislaw Lem.

Life and career[edit]

Peter Swirski is Professor of American literature and culture at the Department of English, University of Missouri—St.Louis[1] and formerly Professor and 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[2][3] and was previously Honorary Professor of American Literature at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He has written thirteen books and 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.[4]

Born in Europe, he worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). He obtained his doctorate summa cum laude from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 1996. Subsequently he taught at the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta, and the University of Hong Kong. In 2003 he was nationally honoured for his teaching in the annual Guide to Canadian Universities (Favourite Professor).[5] In 2013 former students at the University of Alberta founded a scholarship in literary studies in his name (the Faye Wong & Peter Swirski Prize for Excellence). For years he has also volunteered with children, in the 1990s at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital and in the 2000s in Hong Kong's Causeway Bay Social Centre and subsequently at the Ebenezer School for the visually impaired [6] and the Kau Yan Kindergarten and Primary School[7] where he continues to hold the position of English Enrichment Program Director. Swirski’s study of American popular and "nobrow" cultures, From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005) has gone through a number of reprints, while his Ars Americana, Ars Politica (2010) garnered positive reviews from a number of sources, including Howard Zinn[8] and the Financial Times.[9] In 2012 Ars Americana was the subject of his plenary lecture at UNE's Institute for Global Humanities alongside Noam Chomsky and other invited speakers, and together with American Utopia and Social Engineering resulted in contributions to Russian media [10] on American politics and culture. In 2012 he became a panelist on the regular BBC World Service program "Forum" reaching 200 million listeners worldwide.[11]

Peter Swirski on BBC Forum, 2012.

Several of his books and articles in the Times Literary Supplement (2009) and other venues deal with the analysis of the work of the late writer and philosopher Stanislaw Lem.[12] Uniquely, Lem himself praised him in the following terms 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”. In 2012 Professor Swirski was invited to conduct research in Lem's home town of Cracow at the behest of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland. As a Thesaurus Poloniae Senior Research Fellow, his Academy of Heritage Honorary Lecture was delivered and filmed at the International Cultural Centre in Cracow. In the summer and fall of 2013 he was an invited guest at Hong Kong Trade Development Council's International Book Fair, the keynote speaker at the 4th Philippine Literary festival in Manila,[13] and the BBC World Service panelist at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.[14]



  • From Highbrow to Nobrow: The Making of American Literary Culture (forthcoming)
  • War on Errorism: History and Politics in Contemporary American Literature and Culture (2015)
  • Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future (2015)
  • Lemography: Stanislaw Lem in the Eyes of the World (2014)
  • Stanislaw Lem--Selected Letters to Michael Kandel (2014)
  • From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution (2013)
  • American Utopia and Social Engineering in Literature, Social Thought, and Political History (2011)
  • Ars Americana, Ars Politica: Partisan Expression in Contemporary American Literature and Culture (2010)
  • Literature, Analytically Speaking: Explorations in the Theory of Interpretation, Analytic Aesthetics, and Evolution (Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture) (2010)
  • I Sing the Body Politic: History as Prophecy in Contemporary American Literature (2009)
  • Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory (2007)
  • All Roads Lead to the American City (2007)
  • The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem (2006)
  • From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005)
  • Between Literature and Science: Poe, Lem, and Explorations in Aesthetics, Cognitive Science, and Literary Knowledge (2000)
  • A Stanislaw Lem Reader (Rethinking Theory) (1997)


External links[edit]

Livestream Plenary Address at the Center for Global Humanities, USA (2012)