Peter Swirski


Teaching Professor, American Literature and Culture


Ph.D., McGill University
M.A., McGill University
B.A., McGill University

Featured in Canadian Who's Who, Peter Swirski is Honorary Professor of American Studies at Jinan University, China, Academic Advisor in American Studies for the Guangdong International Studies Center, China, and member of the executive councils of the International American Studies Association (IASA) and the Dimic Research Institute for Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies. His research spans modern and contemporary American literature, history, and culture, including popular culture and film (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efqdF1aY98o). He is recognized internationally as the leading Stanislaw Lem scholar (www.hku.hk/press/news_detail_5934.html <http://www.hku.hk/press/news_detail_5934.html> ). Recently he has appeared on the BBC Forum before audiences of 200 million worldwide (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00tdzyy).


SWIRSKI, Peter. From Highbrow to Nobrow: The Making of American Literary Culture. Forthcoming, 2015.

SWIRSKI, Peter. War on Errorism: History and Politics in Contemporary American Literature and Culture. Forthcoming, 2015.

SWIRSKI, Peter. American Utopia and Social Engineering in Literature, Social Thought, and Political History (Routledge Transnational Perspectives on American Literature). New York, London: Routledge, 2011.
ISBN 0415891922 (hardcover). ISBN 0415816874 (paperback).
DAVID RAMPTON: “Professor Swirski is something of a phenomenon… A great teacher in the university classroom, Professor Swirski uses his pedagogical skills to take the reader via his book through a series of complex subjects on which he is obviously an expert… remarkably original contribution to American studies, there really is no other book out there remotely like it.”
DAVID LIVINGSTONE SMITH: “This is a stunning book… examines the hopes, horrors and illusions of utopian social engineering through the lens of twentieth-century American fiction. Superbly crafted, accessible to the non-specialist, and intellectually exhilarating.”
ARTHUR ASA BERGER: “superb example of interdisciplinary research… using material, as it does, from the biological sciences, neurosciences, the social sciences, literary theory, the humanities, philosophical thought, etc.”
PHILIP R. YANNELLA: “brilliant, usually provocative, and nearly always interesting… Swirski is clearly a first-rate interdisciplinary scholar who is doing important work.”
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: “political and textual assonance of merit”. JAAKKO HINTIKKA: “Using imaginative examples from American literature as the testing ground, Peter Swirski examines the collective hopes that found expression in sundry American utopias. What could—what would—happen is they were realized? Stay tuned to this book!”
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES: “excellent… enlightening and thought provoking… Swirski has been long recognized as an important literary scholar and theorist… sure to bear fruit for scholars of politics and literature alike.”
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES: “utterly absorbing, not to say epic in design and execution”.
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AMERICAN STUDIES: “innovative and unique mixture of political science, literary scholarship, and evolutionary studies… exceptional and crucial addition to our understanding of not only utopias and utopian fiction, but also social engineering”.
AMERICAN STUDIES TODAY: “Swirski is clearly at home in the world in literature as well as in American political and social history. But what astounds is his grasp of the scientific and technological nuance of the various methods and theories of social and behavioral engineering discussed in the five chapters. The amount of research that must have gone into American Utopia and Social Engineering staggers the mind. Yet, much as in his previous studies, notably Ars Americana, Ars Politica: Partisan Expression in Contemporary American Literature and Culture, the author transforms this serious and studious book into a page-turner.
PHILOSOPHY IN REVIEW: “What makes American Utopia a special book is the quantity and quality of ideas raised and the zest of the writing… finely argued and intellectually appealing”.
THE MONTREAL REVIEW: “Swirski is the author of several important and provocative studies, including the From Lowbrow to Nobrow and Ars Americana, Ars Politica, and his most recent offering continues the tradition of incisive, stylishly written, scientifically-informed critique... a vigorously argued and beautifully written testament to just how far in this direction historically savvy, scientifically informed literary analysis can take us.”

 SWIRSKI, Peter. Ars Americana, Ars Politica: Partisan Expression in Contemporary American Literature and Culture. Montreal, London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010. ISBN: 0773537651 (hardcover), ISBN: 0773537668 (paperback).
FINANCIAL TIMES: “provocative and energetic book that reaches out beyond academia in an attempt to define the nature of American political literature”.
HOWARD ZINN: “Ars Americana is both fascinating and original”.
H. BRUCE FRANKLIN: “plunges us into a kind of political art that anyone who wants to comprehend American popular culture cannot afford to ignore”.
BRIAN BOYD: “From the author of the acclaimed bestseller From Lowbrow to Nobrow comes Ars Americana, Ars Politica, a manifesto for political, cultural and literary studies, a head-cleanser and a sheer romp”.
ARTHUR ASA BERGER: “soundly researched, passionate, and beautifully written work—a Jeremiad about other Jeremiads, and a powerful critique of American society and politics as reflected in American media and popular culture.”
ROBERT W. McCHESNEY: “illuminating and highly entertaining look at the intersection of art, popular culture and politics. I learned a great deal about subjects where I thought I was a know-it-all. I strongly recommend this book”.
DAVID RAMPTON: “If Fox News reviews Ars Americana, Ars Politica, sparks will fly”.
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN CULTURE: “impressive and highly readable… a joy to read… engaging, provocative, and daresay entertaining”.
AMERICAN STUDIES IN SCANDINAVIA: “Ars Americana has already received a great deal of positive critical attention… a valuable book for U.S. cultural studies for a number of reasons… it takes popular culture seriously; it seeks intersections between politics, history and the arts; and it sugars the pill of cultural and political analysis without losing substance”.
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AMERICAN STUDIES: “excellent… refreshing innovative... enormous success.”
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES: “celebrates the intersection of art, popular culture, and partisan expression in an entertaining and provocative volume”.
2010 Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada Book Award; nominated for the National Book Award; MQUP Featured Book.

SWIRSKI, Peter, ed. I Sing the Body Politic: History as Prophecy in Contemporary American Literature. Montreal, London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009. ISBN: 0773536035 (hardcover), ISBN: 0773536337 (paperback). 
JEROME KLINKOWITZ (AMERICAN LITERARY SCHOLARSHIP): “appealing portrait of latter-day Heller is drawn by Peter Swirski in “The Historature of the American Empire: Joseph Heller’s Picture This”, an essay appearing in the collection Swirski edited”.
HOWARD ZINN: “moving and ultimately devastating portrayal of the Greek, Dutch, and American imperial overreach.”
ARTHUR ASA BERGER: “Beautifully written, and based on an impressive amount of research, it casts a devastating light on the Bush administration and the political order in recent years”.
JOHN HOWARD: “Sure to be consulted for many years by any number of scholars and students in departments of American Studies, English, Film Studies, and beyond”.
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES: “highly charged and highly readable”.
ENGLISH STUDIES IN CANADA: “this collection should spur other critics to explore in greater depth and more care the underappreciated historical consciousness of U.S. cultural productions”.
ANQ: “Political polemic—boldly argued and compelling.”
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AMERICAN STUDIES: “full of political insight that Swirski admirably lays out in his extended essay.” 

SWIRSKI, Peter, ed. All Roads Lead to the American City. Hong Kong, London: Hong Kong University Press, 2007. Co-published with University of Washington Press.
ISBN: 9622098622 (hardcover), ISBN: 9622098630 (paperback).
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES: “boldly conceived… the freshness of approach would likely appeal to readers interested in an overview of overarching themes in the growth of American national identity”.
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN CULTURE: “magnificent offering.”
JOURNAL OF POPULAR CULTURE: “indispensable discussion of the historical and contemporary American city”.
CHRISTINE BOLD: “tons of valuable information and much lively writing. Its strengths are its accessibility, its juxtaposition of materials, and its historical sweep”.
DAVID GRANT: “taps the insights of many fields in order to show how intimately bound up the reality and the image of the road and the city are with the American sense of the nation.”
BIRMINGHAM JOURNAL OF LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE: “has the potential to become an influential textbook in American Studies”.
Shortlisted for the American Studies Association’s John Hope Franklin Prize.

SWIRSKI, Peter. From Lowbrow to Nobrow. Montreal, London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
ISBN: 0773529926 (hardcover), ISBN: 0773530193 (paperback).
RAY B. BROWNE: “This superb book will make all previous studies in popular culture moot… must be owned by all libraries and cultural studies scholars”.
THE GUARDIAN: “bracing reproof to those who moan about the death of reading or the brain-rotting effects of reading only popular fiction.”
COLUMBIA JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES: “Fascinatingly original… enthralling and provocative”.
BIRMINGHAM JOURNAL OF LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE: “superb… essential reading and the best study to date”.
POPULAR CULTURE REVIEW: “spectacular critical achievement”.
INTERNATIONAL FICTION REVIEW: “Original and thought provoking at every step”.
JOURNAL OF POPULAR CULTURE: “Top five in popular culture studies”.
MONTREAL REVIEW OF BOOKS: “Swirski writes intelligently, quotes copiously, and approaches his themes passionately”.
POPULAR CULTURE REVIEW (2): “eye-opening must-read about popular literature as art… the best study to date of the rise of that novel literary-cultural formation ‘nobrow’”.
2005 Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada Book Award; MQUP Featured Book.

SWIRSKI, Peter. Between Literature and Science: Poe, Lem, and Explorations in Aesthetics, Cognitive Science, and Literary Knowledge. Montreal, London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000.
ISBN: 0773520431 (hardcover), ISBN: 0773520783 (paperback).
PAISLEY LIVINGSTON: “Rarely have I been so enthusiastic about a book”.
JED RASULA: “engaged me with its studiousness, coherence, and inventiveness”.
JERROLD LEVINSON: “gives new hope for the future of literary studies”.
CANADIAN SLAVONIC PAPERS: “breathtaking erudition and intellectual courage.”
SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES: “remarkable breadth of scholarship and rigor… Swirski demonstrates through his own exhaustive scholarship what it means to do interdisciplinary literary investigation”.
M/MLA: “an intriguing ‘solution’ to the problems posed by interdisciplinarity”.
CHOICE: “shows how Poe in the nineteenth century and Lem in the twentieth were both futurists who proposed hypotheses in aesthetics, epistemology, philosophy of science, cosmology, and artificial intelligence—an aspect of their work that has been neglected.”
GOOGLE BOOKS: “bold arguments about the nature of literature and its relation to a broad range of other disciplines”.
CANADIAN LITERATURE: “intergalactic voyage for traditional literary studies, periodically landing in philosophy of science, game theory, pragmatics, futurology, bitic literature, cosmology, template programming and computer cognition”.
1999 Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada Book Award. 


SWIRSKI, Peter, ed. Lemography: Stanislaw Lem in the Eyes of the World. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014.

SWIRSKI, Peter. From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution. Montreal, London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013.
JAAKKO HINTIKKA: “Once I had a chess-playing computer that was reprogrammed to comment on my moves. The greatest praise it could bestow on one of them was to inquire, ‘Are you also a computer?’ Is this an omen of our literary future? Will computers one day win not only chess tournaments but Pulitzer Prizes? Will biterature overcome literature? Peter Swirski thinks so, and he also thinks that Turing and Darwin have told us how it can happen. You do not have to agree with him any more than I do, but if his book inspires and provokes you as much as it did me, reading it is a move that even my chess computer would compliment.”
TOMASZ LEM: “Professor Swirski’s work is an accessible introduction to the domain Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the presumed emergence of computer-generated literature—a thought provoking concept”.
SAMI PIHLSTROM: “an exceptional and unique work, both regarding its contents and its style… its primary objective is to make us rethink our understanding of literature but also our understanding of what kind of beings we ourselves are”.
WACLAW OSADNIK: “The best thing that appeared since Future Shock by Alvin Toffler… I can hardly think of anyone else who could integrate philosophy of mind, robotics, literary studies, cultural trends, futurology, evolution and many other areas of intellectual analysis so effortlessly: names like Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley, or Douglas Hoftstader spring to mind”.
MICHELLE SCALISE-SUGIYAMA: “reminds of Michael Crichton’s Prey”.
2013 Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada Book Award.

SWIRSKI, Peter. Lem—Polemics: Biography, Letters, Provocation. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013.
STANISLAW LEM: “Peter Swirski, a brilliant literary critic and a superb translator, deserves wide recognition as a scholar in American and Polish literatures”.
NICHOLAS RUDDICK: “Utterly absorbing… absolutely first-rate Lem and first-rate Swirski”.
KEN KRABBENHOFT: “Lem emerges from Peter Swirski’s mastery of his subject in both the stunning breadth of his genius and a humanity forged by the nightmare of modern Polish history. Swirski’s writing is graceful, engaging, and unmarred by jargon or pretense”.
BO PETTERSSON: “The world’s leading Lem critic Peter Swirski competes with Lem in erudition and style—and the winner is the reader.”
JOSEPH CARROLL: “Swirski knows more about Lem than any scholar alive.”

SWIRSKI, Peter. Literature, Analytically Speaking: Explorations in the Theory of Interpretation, Analytic Aesthetics, and Evolution (Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture). Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.
ISBN: 0292721781 (hardcover). ISBN: 9780292728875 (paperback).
CROATIAN JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY: “Swirski is brilliant… his knowledge of and familiarity with literary practice is truly amazing… I would strongly recommend Swirski’s book to everybody interested in literature, art, aesthetics and literary interpretations”.
SUBSTANCE: “exceptionally cogent… enlightening… admirable”.
CHOICE: “bracing, energetic challenge to the status quo. Summing up: Recommended”.
PRESS REVIEW: “revered literary theorist Peter Swirski puts new life into literary theory”.
PHILOSOPHY IN REVIEW: “Swirski’s analytical brilliance and his breathtaking expertise in literature and literary studies are obvious at every step of the way… beautifully written and beautifully argued book.”
CANADIAN REVIEW OF COMPARATIVE LITERATURE: “the best study in the aesthetics of a literary work since Roman Ingarden… Swirski’s virtuoso investigations of literature from the standpoint of analytic aesthetics and the theory of evolution open new avenues in humanistic studies in general, and in literary studies in particular”.
THE EVOLUTIONARY REVIEW: “fundamental affirmation of human purpose, design and agency… written with an accessible freshness and curiosity... timely invitation for literary scholars to view how far their field has come.”
PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE (2011): “fascinating ‘explorations’ (as the subtitles announce) in topics both within and surrounding the study of literature, manifesting the author’s vast knowledge of a number of academic disciplines”.
PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE (2012): “astute... lucid and undeniably valuable… fascinating… while Swirski is well informed by philosophical theories of meaning and art, he never loses sight of his principal subject, literature.”
THE JOURNAL OF AESTHETICS AND ART CRITICISM: “a good deal of common sense supported by good critical arguments”.

SWIRSKI, Peter. Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory. New York, London: Routledge, 2007.
ISBN: 0415420598 (hardcover), ISBN: 0415420601 (paperback).
EDWARD O. WILSON: “An important advance in this new and important subject… literature is about to become even more interesting”.
JOHN ADAMS, British Society for Literature and Science: “A complex and usefully provocative contribution to the field. Laudably ambitious and readable”.
BRIGITTE BRASCHLER: “The breadth of examples used is in itself a good reason to read this book as most people—be they students of literature or of the natural sciences—will find much that was unknown to them and even more that is presented in a new and surprising context.”
JOSEPH CARROLL: “successfully crosses the divide between difficult academic theory and the colloquial idiom of popular speech, and brings into play a range of literary and theoretical reference that is in itself a chief source of pleasure for readers”.
PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE (2011): “I warmly recommend this lively written volume by a leading literary scholar to anyone seriously interested in philosophical issues of literature”.
PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE (2012): “merges a conversational, humorous tone with a disciplined academic attitude that not only enlightens but entertains… fascinating, essential contribution towards a more interdisciplinary understanding of literature, commendable for literary scholars, aestheticians, and philosophers”.
SUBSTANCE: “engaging, challenging… a pleasure to read… an important and stimulating contribution”.

SWIRSKI, Peter, ed. The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem. Montreal, London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.
ISBN: 0773530460 (hardcover), 0773530479 (paperback).
IAN LANCASHIRE: “Creative application of scientific, philosophical, and religious thought to the imagining of new worlds”.
EARLE WAUGH: “Very fine indeed”.

SWIRSKI, Peter. A Stanislaw Lem Reader (Rethinking Theory). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1997.
ISBN: 0810114944 (hardcover), ISBN: 0810114951 (paperback).
KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Densely written, with something to think about in almost every paragraph, this is probably the best quick introduction to the main currents of the large body of work Lem has produced”.
BOOKLIST: “slim but fascinating… essential reading”.
GOODREADS: “an in-depth and insightful collection of writings by and about, and interviews with, one of the most fascinating writers of the twentieth century.”
EXTRAPOLATION: “well worth the reader’s time and effort.”
UTOPIAN STUDIES: “presents the opportunity to discover aspects of Lem not otherwise accessible”.