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Fulbright Scholar to teach in Slovakia

Mark PowellAssistant Professor of English Mark Powell has won a Fulbright Scholarship Award, allowing him to teach at Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra in the country of Slovakia beginning in September as part of a sabbatical that will last the spring and fall semesters. Powell has also received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and the Vaclav Havel Fellowship in Playwriting to the Prague Seminar. Powell received his BA in English at Citadel, his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of South Carolina, and his MAR in Religion and Literature at the Yale Divinity School. He came to Stetson in August 2008.

“I’m very excited,” said Powell.  “I’m looking forward to a year abroad. My wife and I were in Slovakia for about a week in 2006 on our way to the Prague fellowship, but I think it’ll still come as a culture shock being there for a longer time. I love it there, though. It’s mountainous and from that you can really get the Slovak atmosphere. The fact that it’s very close to Poland and Ukraine will also be exciting.”

The Fulbright program, founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946, provides merit-based grants for international educational exchange with the goal of increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries by supporting students, scholars, scientists, and other professional individuals. The program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is one of the world’s most prestigious awards programs and operates in over 155 countries.

“The students taking the course will be American Studies majors,” explained Powell. “I’ve been told to expect students with a high-level of English fluency, which will be helpful. The course I’m teaching will be on contemporary American fiction, so we’ll be reading writers like Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, ZZ Packer, Ben Fountain, and Ron Rash.”

Once Powell finishes teaching for a semester in Slovokia, he will leave for Mexico in January for another semester. “We’ll be a couple hours north of Mexico City in San Miguel de Allende,” explained Powell. “It’s a wonderful little town in the mountains. I’m just going to hang out there and write and do what I love.”

Powell is an established author with four novels; On Thursday Apr. 17, in the Stetson room, Mark Powell read from his upcoming novel, titled The Sheltering, which will be released July 18. The event also featured Stetson student Sam Slaughter who read from his first novel Dogs, which serves as partial fulfillment for Slaughter’s MA degree. “It was an honor and privilege to read with Mark,” said Slaughter. “Over the past two years Mark has offered guidance and support that has helped me get to the point I am.”

“I’m glad my novel is going to be released before I leave for Slovakia,” said Powell, “that way I can do a little bit of promotion in various bookstores across the southeast, otherwise I’d feel pretty guilty.”

According to the dust jacket of The Sheltering, “Powell broadens the southern backdrop of his earlier work into a sprawling thriller taking readers from the Middle East to Charleston, southern Georgia, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, and into the storied American West. In Powell’s dark vision of modern Americana, he masterfully engages with the vexing, bifurcated lives of combatants in the global war on terror, those who are simultaneously here and there and thus never fully freed from the life-and-death chaos of the battlefield. Novelist Ron Rash has deemed Powell ‘the best Appalachian novelist of his generation.’”

“All in all, I’m thrilled to be headed abroad. I’m very grateful to the Fulbright foundation, and I’m very grateful to work at a place like Stetson University; they’ve done such a wonderful job of supporting their faculty.”

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Powell/e/B001JRV3SQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Two reviews of Powell’s book are included below:

“In masterful prose, Mark Powell’s brilliant new novel, The Sheltering, explores the lives of a handful of people who are trying in various ways to find either meaning or escape in a post-2007 America that is rapidly losing any claim to greatness through, among other things, senseless wars and financial disasters. It is an amazing achievement.”—Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time

“In The Sheltering, Mark Powell has laid bare our busted and war-ravaged cores. We recognize our own lives in the precision of his renderings. It is as if he’s seen it all somehow from on high, drone-weary and waiting on that whirling God. With fierce wisdom and bold honesty, Mark Powell has written a hell of book.”—Glenn Taylor, author of​ The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart. 

by George Salis