Montana State University

Kollin changes the landscape of traditional Western in Nov. 10 Provost’s Lecture

October 30, 2015 -- By Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service

Susan Kollin, MSU English professor and scholar of the film and literature of the American West, challenges traditional assumptions about the genesis and current state of the Western in the next MSU Provost’s Lecture Series scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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Susan Kollin, an Montana State University professor of English and leading scholar of film and literature of the American West, challenges traditional assumptions about the genesis and current state of the Western in the next Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies. The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

“The story we often tell about the Western is that it is a homegrown American genre born in the East Coast through such people as Teddy Roosevelt, writer Owen Wister and artist Frederic Remington – elite white males who looked at the West through romantic eyes,” Kollin said, adding that there are currently variations of the Western narrative popping up in film and literature in such places as Mexico, Australia, South Africa and Jamaica.

“There is another East and a broader global context for the Western,” she said.

Kollin’s theory of the transnational influences on what has been regarded as a uniquely American genre is the subject of her new book, “Captivating Westerns: The Middle East in the American West” published this fall by the University of Nebraska Press. In the book, Kollin examines how experiences of contact and conflict have played a role in defining the western United States as a crucial American landscape and revisits popular uses of the Western plot and cowboy hero in understanding American global power in the post-9/11 period.

“Susan has established herself as a leading scholar of the literature of the American West,” said Nicol Rae, dean of the MSU College of Letters and Science. “Her recently published book, ‘Captivating Westerns,’ will change the way we think about Westerns and their impact on American attitudes toward the Middle East.”

Kollin experienced a global context while she was a Fulbright Faculty Scholar in Cairo, Egypt, in 2007-2008. She said the experience helped her learn more about how Americans in the world are perceived as well as how the literature of the American West is perceived elsewhere. Kollin also was a co-founder of the Middle East Partnership Initiative program at MSU, a six-week international cultural exchange that brings students from the Middle East and North Africa to the U.S.

Kollin has taught in the MSU Department of English since 1995. A prolific writer with scores of scholarly papers and chapters about Western American literature and film, she has published two previous books that challenged the definition of the American West: "Nature’s State," and an edited collection of essays, "Postwestern Cultures: Literature, Theory and Space." She is also an environmental critic and a scholar of feminist theory. In 2009, Kollin received the Betty Coffey Award in recognition of her work on issues and problems faced by MSU’s female undergraduate students. She was also a College of Letters and Science Distinguished Professor from 2011-2014.

A former resident of Alaska, Kollin received both her master’s degree and doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota at the Twin Cities and her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan.

The Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series at MSU is free and open to the public. It recognizes faculty distinguished at MSU for their scholarship and creativity. Faculty presenting during the series reflect on the inspirations for their work in lectures suited for professionals and lay people alike.

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Susan Kollin (406) 994-5184, susan.kollin@msu.montana.edu

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