University of Montana Western English professor Alan Weltzien is a champion of Montana literature.
“I always value local writers for several reasons,” Weltzien says. “It gives me a chance to have an authority on a unique literature, it enhances my library, and it grounds me. The best way to learn about a new place is through the music, food, and the literature of that area.”
Weltzien has worked hard to keep the work of Montana authors such as Norman Maclean and Thomas Savage in the public spotlight. Weltzien’s “The Norman Maclean Reader,” a guide to the author of “A River Runs Through It,” introduced several unpublished Maclean pieces. Weltzien was also instrumental in the reissue of Savage’s first novel “The Pass” and the upcoming 2011 reissue of Savage’s second novel, “Lona Hanson.” Both novels follow the lives of ranchers who experience the harsh ruggedness of the Montana land and life.
Weltzien keeps Montana authors under the spotlight in his classes as well. He chooses the majority of his course material from the many published Montana authors available. Through Weltzien's promotion of Montana authors, guest speakers such as Norman Maclean’s son John Maclean have given lectures or presentations at Montana Western.
“Our English majors can expect a great amount of personal attention and tough nurturing from the faculty, all of whom are also published writers,” adds Weltzien, a published author himself.
Weltzien’s most recent publications include his work as the editor of “The Literary Art and Activism of Rick Bass,” “Coming into McPhee Country: John McPhee and the Art of Literary Nonfiction,” and “The Norman Maclean Reader.”
Weltzien also published a memoir in 2008 titled “A Father and an Island,” Author Ann Ronald described the memoir as a “poignant remembrance of things past."
With the firsthand experience of being a writer and a professor, Weltzien says UMW’s Experience One block-scheduling program is a teaching tool that not only benefits UMW students but faculty as well.
“Block teaching requires more energy and imagination than conventional semester course teaching,” notes Weltzien. “It is more tiring but allows faculty to foreground daily, small group work and consequently, more consistent and substantive peer interaction than is usually the case with traditionally structured courses. Its intensity permits and requires of students a single-minded focus.”
Weltzien uses Experience One’s unique structuring and focused intensity to introduce his students to the many exceptional Montana authors and allow them to explore Montana's local literature.
“Montana literature is and always will be literature wedded to the landscape,” explains Weltzien. “Montana has had a sexy literary reputation for a long while. It is important for people to know that these authors are out there.”
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Kolby Brown is a literature major at the University of Montana Western.