Why Stories Matter: Introducing Alexander Hollenberg

Dr. Alexander Hollenberg is a Professor of Storytelling and Narrativity in Sheridan’s School of Humanities and Creativity. His areas of expertise include American modernist literatures, narrative theory, and the ethics of interpretation. Although still in the early stages of his career, his academic work has already been published widely in such journals as Narrative, Studies in American Indian Literatures, and The Hemingway Review. He also has articles forthcoming in Style and a new teaching volume, Teaching War, Teaching Hemingway.

Alexander Hollenberg, photo taken by Kaye Prince

Alexander Hollenberg, photo taken by Kaye Prince

Alex’s passion for teaching began the moment he realized that the literature classroom was a space of learning for both students and professors. The buzz within the room, its nervous energy—filledwith moments of clarity and moments of confusion, moments of anxiety and moments of insight—showed Alex that we become creative through the ways we interpret the narratives that surround us. Why do we tell stories? What does narrative offer our society that other discourses cannot? These questions underscore all of Alex’s teaching. Stories ask us to think about the world in new ways, to engage alternative perspectives, and to carefully consider what is different from ourselves. And today, Alex’s best teaching moments occur when students are able to produce innovative readings based on the stories they read and then apply that thinking to the world beyond the text. When that happens, the classroom itself transforms into a productive, creative space.

Alex’s newest research project, a book-length study entitled, Doctored Discourse: Modernism and Narrative Medicine, is very much inspired by his efforts to show students why stories—and why the Humanities—matter. The book argues that reading modernist discourse (the “how” of narrative, the way a story is structured) can operate as an essential “site of ethical practice” that would prove valuable to healthcare workers in their relationships with patients. This is also frames Alex’s general approach to Creativity in the Humanities: if we can demonstrate how Humanities-based thinking responds to the real world and provides innovative interdisciplinary solutions to a host of social challenges, then we will also begin to inspire a new generation of thoughtful, active citizens who feel a real stake in the development of their own communities.

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