Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.
Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing
How did you discover Western?
I discovered Western as an alpine ski racer during my senior year of high school in New Jersey. A flyer arrived in the mail with a photo of Mt. Crested Butte, and it said, "Ski and Study at the Top!" Once I saw that the campus was only 30 miles from the ski area, I was sold—I didn't apply anywhere else. Interestingly, I came here just to ski, but after injuring myself badly in my first ski race, I turned my attention to my education and discovered that I had a great thirst for knowledge. Western changed everything for me.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
One of the highlights of my career was coming back to Gunnison to teach at Western in 2015, after spending over two decades away teaching at UC Berkeley, UW-Milwaukee and other institutions. While I enjoyed teaching at other universities, teaching at Western is much more meaningful to me since I was once a student here. Western changed my life by opening my eyes to the world of big ideas, of poetry, of literature, of philosophy. To be teaching at Western now and to be in a position to open the eyes of a new generation of Western students to these higher pursuits is a dream come true for me.
What most excites you about your field?
What most excites me about the study of literature and philosophy is the snowball effect that comes with reading, teaching and writing. In other words, the more that I read, teach and write, the more connections I see between texts, the more questions I have and the more I want to read, teach and write. What I am most excited about in my own work is my ongoing project of translating Homer's "Iliad" into English verse. To translate this 2,800-year-old poem into the English of our time is to attempt to reach across a vast gulf of time and across a profound difference in culture and worldview. And yet, Homer, too, was human, so to translate his poetry is to reach past these differences and to approach the core of the human experience.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
My favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley is its remoteness, its isolation. Sure, we have the internet, our smartphones and everything else that functions to erase our isolation and put us in the stream of modern, technologized life, but there remains a sense of distance to life here, a sense of isolation and independence that I deeply value. Similarly, there is a ruggedness to life out here that is harder to have in more urban areas. We have so much open space available to us here that it is easier for us to escape average everyday life and to feel in touch with something larger and more primordial.