Michael Steiner

Michael Steiner

Professor Steiner works as Professor and Graduate Director of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. He is responsible for a large MA program and teaches courses on American character, American regionalism, California and the West, American folk culture, culture and nature, environmental theory and history, and the interpretation of natural and built environments.  Partially inspired by his Fulbright experience at UMCS Lublin, he is just now completing a collection of essays on the politics of place, Regionalists on the Left: Radical Voices from the American West.  He has co-authored several other books including: Region and Regionalism in the United States (1988), Mapping American Culture (1992), and Many Wests: Place, Culture, and Regional Identity (1997), and he has published prize-winning articles on the significance of Frederick Jackson Turner’s regional theory and on the architectural imagery of Walt Disney’s Frontierland.  With his Fulbright experiences in mind and as the director of an MA program with 50 or more students, he has actively promoted transnational American Studies since the 1990s.  In 2006, he was extremely gratified to receive a national award from the American Studies Association: the Mary C. Turpie Award for outstanding achievement in teaching, advisement, and program building in American Studies.

I vividly remember my time at UMCS in Lublin as a high point of my career.  It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve as Distinguished Fulbright Chair of American Studies at the University of Debrecen in Hungary 1998-99 and at UMCS In Lublin in Spring 2004, and I was particularly moved by the personal warmth, never-ending thoughtfulness, and intellectual zest of the American studies faculty and students at UMCS.  In my five months in Lublin, I know that I learned more from my colleagues and students than they learned form me. I taught three memorable seminars—on California Cultures, American Culture and Nature, and American Regionalism—to some of the smartest, liveliest, most appreciative students I’ve ever had in a classroom.  I exchanged ideas with advanced graduate students and had unforgettable, wide-ranging conversations with truly accomplished, expansively warm colleagues—incredibly generous souls like Jerzy and Joanna Durczak, Jerzy Kutnik, Pawel Frelik, and Mirella Dykiel.

At a personal level, I was deeply touched by how often colleagues took me into their homes, invited me to dinner, social events, and academic conferences.  I was moved by how they indulged my fascination with local culture and nature, history and landscape, by taking me on tours and walks through vivid places like Naleczow, Kazimierz Dolny, Zamocs, Zwierzyniec, Sochy, and Roztoczanski national park.  Largely because of my UMCS colleagues, I gave papers at Torun, Krakow, Prague, and Lodz, and these talks and trips through history–soaked landscapes have  shaped my teaching and writing ever since.  Memories of reading Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novels, for example, while traveling through the very towns and villages being described in his prose—such an experience and many others like are etched in my memory.  I am forever grateful for all that I gained during my 2004 Fulbright at UMCS in Lubin.

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