Peter Swirski

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Peter Swirski
Peter Swirski European TV3 2009.jpg
Peter Swirski interviewed for European TV, 2009.
Born (1966-02-27) February 27, 1966 (age 51)
Occupation Author, Educator, Scholar, Literary Critic
Nationality Canadian

Peter Swirski (born 1966) is a Canadian scholar and literary critic featured in Canadian Who's Who and Amazon's #1 Bestseller in American Literary History and Criticism and in Canadian Literary History and Criticism. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of seventeen books, including the prize-winning Ars Americana, Ars Politica (2010) and the staple of American popular culture studies From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005). His other well-known studies include American Utopia and Social Engineering (2011), American Political Fictions (2015), and the digital-futurological bestseller From Literature to Biterature (2013). He is also the leading scholar on the late writer and philosopher Stanisław Lem.

Life and career[edit]

Peter Swirski is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Silesia, Poland, Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Literature at the Department of English, SYSU,[1] Senior Research Associate at the Wirth Institute at the University of Alberta,[2] Canada, and Honorary Professor at the American Studies Center at Jinan University. Formerly he was Professor and Research Director at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in Finland.,[3] Honorary Professor in American literature at South China University of Technology[4] and Honorary Professor of American Literature at the University of British Columbia (UBC).[citation needed] He has written seventeen books and 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.[5]

In the mid-1980s he worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He obtained his doctorate summa cum laude from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 1996. Subsequently he was affiliated with 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).[6] 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 Literature). For years Professor Swirski has 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 [7] and the Kau Yan Kindergarten and Primary School[8] where he continues to hold the position of English Enrichment Program Director. In 2011-2012 he organized a book drive for China, shipping almost a ton of books donated by European libraries and individuals to various universities in Guangzhou, such as South China University of Technology.

Swirski’s study of American popular and "nobrow" cultures, From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005) has gone through a number of reprints, followed up by two other books on "nobrow" literature, culture, and other forms of "artertainment" (his coinage). They are American Crime Fiction (2016) and a collection of critical essays When Highbrow Meets Lowbrow: Popular Culture and the Rise of Nobrow (2017). His award-winning book Ars Americana, Ars Politica (2010) received positive reviews from a number of sources, including Howard Zinn[9] and the Financial Times.[10] In 2012 Ars Americana was the subject of Professor Swirski's plenary lecture at UNE's Institute for Global Humanities alongside Noam Chomsky and other invited speakers, and together with American Utopia and Social Engineering attracted attention in and contributions to Russian media [11] on American politics and culture. Together with American Political Fictions: War on Errorism (2015), Ars Americana, Ars Politica and American Utopia and Social Engineering form a trilogy of studies of contemporary American political art and of the new social, cultural, and political roles it plays in American society. The books document how, taking over some of the functions traditionally performed by political campaigns and campaigners, publicly engaged art has become a political information bearer, grassroots educator, partisan critic, and mobilizer of public opinion.

In 2012 Professor Swirski became a panelist on the regular BBC World Service program "Forum" reaching 200 million listeners worldwide.[12]

Peter Swirski on BBC Forum, 2012.

Several of his books and articles from the Times Literary Supplement to the MIT Technology Review and other venues deal with the analysis of the work of the writer and philosopher Stanislaw Lem.[13] 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,[14][15] and the BBC World Service panelist at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.[16] In March 2015 he was the keynoter at the Millennium International Documentary Film Festival in Brussels,[17] Belgium. From Ars Americana, Ars Politica to American Utopia and Social Engineering, his books and articles have been translated into a number of languages, including Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Polish, Japanese, and Croatian.

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