BY SARAH ALLISON
John Pilsner is one of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s newest faculty members as an English professor. Raised in New York, he received his Bachelor of Arts in drama and English from Hofstra University and now holds a doctorate in comparative literature.
“My first love was the theater,” Pilsner said. In the interests of a more thorough education he added an English major. After receiving a scholarship, he completed his Master of Arts in English at the University of Toronto.
“The point came when I had to decide whether I would go on in drama or in English,” Pilsner said. “I discerned going into an academic career rather than an artistic career.”
Over the course of six summers, he studied art and languages in Europe, travelling through Spain, Rome, England and France. While in Angers, France, he studied with the Rev. Germain Marc’hadour, a Catholic priest whom he described as “one of the world’s greatest scholars of Thomas More, and one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met in my life.”
“I’d say it was an important, formative element for me in my life and in my education to have spent that time in Europe,” said Pilsner. He was drawn to comparative literature by “the presence of modern criticism and politics in the study of English literature.” He also felt an interest in Catholic tradition such as Augustine and Dante and the Renaissance period.
Beginning in 1993, he served as an adjunct professor teaching comparative literature at Queens College in New York. He was also a Technology Fellow, working with a team to integrate the use of technology with traditional academic content, he said
“I’ve always been interested in Franciscan (University) as a place that I would like to go to and to teach in, to be a part of,” said Pilsner. “I could not have been happier to see that a position was open at the same time as I was finishing my Ph.D.”
Immediately before coming to Franciscan, Pilsner was a program evaluator and research associate for the World Youth Alliance, a culture of life program for students. He arrived at Franciscan University in July with his wife, who teaches poetry.
“I had to move everything here and start immediately,” said Pilsner. He added that he has had good experiences with both colleagues and students.
“I feel this incredible sense that I’ve arrived home,” he said. “I find my colleagues to be just so incredibly hospitable, and a delight to be with.”
The classes Pilsner teaches include a new core course, Lyric and Dramatic Voices, which deals with the narrative voice in literature and poetry. The works that the class has studied has included the poetry of St. Francis.
“I’m particularly enthused with the disposition of the students toward learning,” said Pilsner. “I find that Franciscan is a place where I can be passionate about what I teach, and where that passion is communicated.”
Pilsner’s interests lie in the arts, the outdoors and travelling. Out of the classes he is teaching, he particularly enjoys his course on Shakespeare.
“I have a lot of personal experience performing Shakespeare in my past,” he said. “It’s really a love for Shakespeare which goes back to my youth.”