Kids Corner


Ambassador of English Literature: Amritjit Singh



Sharing benefits everyone.

This fundamental life lesson taught in kindergarten classrooms everywhere is the principle behind Amritjit Singh's six-week stay in Graz, Austria, as a Fulbright senior specialist earlier this year.

Amritjit Singh, Ohio University's Langston Hughes Professor of English, practiced this international form of give and take during the fall quarter at the Karl Franzens University's Institute of American Studies in Austria.

Amritjit has served as the Langston Hughes Professor at Ohio University since January 2006. The named professorship within the Department of English recognizes his stature and expertise in African-American literature. He teaches courses in 20th century American literature, African-American studies, postcolonial literature and theory, and South Asian literature, among other areas.

In March 2007, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by The Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS) for his contributions in ethnic American literary scholarship, including the MELA Series he edits for Rutgers University Press.

He has taught for 42 years, including at Rhode Island College and the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur, India, as well as in visiting positions at New York University, University of California-Berkeley, College of the Holy Cross and Harvard University.

The Council for International Exchange of Scholars names about 400 senior specialists annually, providing short-term academic opportunities in other countries for U.S. faculty and professionals. The goal is to increase the participation of leading American scholars and professionals in academic exchanges, encourage activities that extend beyond traditional teaching and research, and promote new links between post-secondary academic institutions worldwide.

At Karl Franzens University, also known at the University of Graz, Amritjit lectured on William Faulkner and major African-American writers such as Richard Wright, Alice Walker and Ernest Gaines and their examinations of the American South. He conducted a weekend retreat on Toni Morrison's Beloved for doctoral candidates in American Studies in Central Europe and also collaborated with Austrian colleagues at the 2007 Conference of the Austrian Association for American Studies, discussing possibilities and challenges related to Europeans' study of the Americas.

"For me, the whole experience has been about fostering academic communities for an open and continuing exchange of ideas", Amritjit Singh said. "As teaching professionals, we work together to raise intercultural consciousness among young students in Europe and the U.S. We hope our efforts help our students to think afresh about difficult issues of culture and society, such as migration and identity, in a global world".

He said the teaching and networking opportunity provided him with insights that will benefit his students at Ohio University, where he has taught the past two years. Joseph McLaughlin, chair of the English department, agrees.

"It's a great honor for our department", McLaughlin said. "He is gaining knowledge for the department about the way American literature is being approached and studied in Europe".

Amritjit - as a new American, having emigrated from India - brings a distinctive perspective to his classrooms. His recent academic foray will only add to that.

"Academic exchanges between the U.S. and Europe bolster the possibility of our getting past the limiting notions of American exceptionalism", Amritjit said. "As Americans, we still are on the learning curve as global citizens. I believe Europeans often have a more layered understanding of global realities".

Klaus Rieser, chair of the department of American studies at Graz, said the benefits of Amritjit Singh's visit to Austria were mutual. "He has been inspiring and helpful. His outstanding academic record, penetrating thought and very helpful and open disposition are big assets for all of us", he said.

Added Silvia Schultermandl, another Austrian colleague: "Many students have studied Professor Singh's work and know his scholarship. Now, they have the pleasure of meeting him in person and enjoying his expertise".


[Courtesy: Ohio University, Outlook]

June 27, 2008

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