Literary reading with former RMC professor Ken Egan, article by Kajlea Richards

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Former Rocky Mountain College professor Ken Egan will be reading from his original works on March 19 at 7 p.m. in The Great Room, located in Prescott Hall.

Egan has a deep passion for the liberal arts, one that has carried over to his position as Executive Director for Humanities Montana. He stated, “Humanities Montana has reminded me time and again of the wonder of our home state.We describe Humanities Montana as the extension service for the humanities, and so I’ve also been inspired to shift my writing and research to projects that address a non-academic audience.” The overall goal of Humanities Montana is to send facilitators into communities, in an effort to bring citizens together and ask them tough questions such as, “How should Montanans inhabit the land and deal with issues around agriculture, coal mining, and tourism? How can people living in eastern and western Montana cooperate? Given the seven Native American reservations in the state, what is tribal sovereignty and what does it mean for cultural and political life on the reservations?” . Egan emphasized the importance of the liberal arts by stating, “I’m also going to share my belief [that] a liberal arts education is invaluable for students and our communities” during the presentation at RMC.

Picture by Montana Public RadioEgan’s influences stem from the life he has lived in Montana. He stated that most of his writing “usually begins with an itch, a point of curiosity, a question that keeps asking for an answer. ‘Montana 1889’ began with the itch to know how Montana had changed in the 25 years between its creation as a territory and its conversion to a state.”

Although Egan spent some time away from Montana, when he moved to Wisconsin to attend graduate school and then to Vermont, to teach at Vermont’s Middlebury College, he admitted that Montana has become the main focus of his research and writing. “When I left the state for the University of Wisconsin, I assumed Montana would recede in my thinking and imagination.” said Egan. “Quite the opposite was true. Spending time in places such as Madison, Wisconsin, Middlebury, Vermont, and Springfield, Missouri allowed me to sample cultural and natural worlds quite different from my home state, and I loved all those places in different ways. But those temporary homes also threw into relief the beauty, wonder, and complexity of Montana. And so while my first scholarly book was a study of nineteenth-century American fiction, pretty much everything I’ve written since then focuses on Montana.”

The inspiration that he draws from Montana and its history can be seen in his most recent project; one in which he focuses on Frank Linderman “a remarkable man who came to Montana in 1885 to find true wilderness and stayed to share the stories of Plenty Coups and Pretty Shield.Egan’s books include “Montana 1889: Indians, Cowboys, and Miners in the Year of Statehood,” Montana 1864,” “Hope and Dread in Montana Literature, and Writers Under the Rims: A Yellowstone County Anthology,” and “The Riven Home: Narrative Rivalry in the American Renaissance.”

Egan reflected on his time spent at RMC, stating “Students always come first in my memories. I had so many wonderful students who challenged, surprised, and inspired me. I also remember fondly many colleagues who combined commitment to scholarship and teaching.” He discussed the excitement he feels in relation to his return.“I’m looking forward to thanking Rocky for helping me grow up professionally” said Egan. “I taught there for 17 years—and for nurturing my young family.”

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