A Moment with Blake Westerlund

Blake Westerlund

The Afterword would like to take a moment to recognize professor Blake Westerlund on his recent move to join the tenure track within the English department.

Blake is the self-described “old-new person” of the English department as he’s recently been added to the tenure track, in his fifteenth year at the university. His official title with the faculty is as a “department generalist” which basically means that he’s had the opportunity to teach a broad variety of literature classes throughout his time here. He made mention of his CV including a rather large list of all the different classes he’s been able to teach.

Blake’s graduate work has centered on Victorian-era representations of masculinity and empire, though he was encouraged by a mentor to read outside of his area and thus acquired a more general knowledge of literature (notably including American lit) that may have helped pave the way to his present position at Eau Claire. When asked about what his main contribution has been to the department as a professor, we agreed that “yes” would probably be the best summarized answer, because Blake is enthusiastic about every part of his job. However, even amidst the general enjoyment of his position here, Blake does have his specific passions and preferences.

Blake’s favorite classes to teach are ones in which he gets to explore how the West is represented in American literature. Apart from this, he immediately lit up while talking about the Winterim Sherlock Holmes class he instructed recently. A specific contribution he’s made to the course has been to redesign the curriculum to integrate the BBC series and other media representations of the iconic figure as a means of studying the connections between the classic texts and their re-interpretations in popular culture. Blake believes that the recent mainstream Holmes craze is a sort of kairotic moment for this interplay of texts and is fascinated by the connections between them.

Some of Blake’s favorite memories with the English department come from his time as interim director of the Center for Writing Excellence. He recalls that it was joy to work with such a mixture of personalities, with special mention to the estimable Dianne Lund (CWE program assistant) for her passion and commitment to students. He also mentioned how great it has been to work with the other faculty in the English department, joking that he feels like “the nerd in a bunch of really cool people” in the midst of his colleagues. To the contrary, any student who has had Blake can attest to his engaging personality and witty humor.

Blake has some interesting longterm goals of establishing what might be called “literature immersion trips” to other places like Madison or the Cities in order to give students the opportunity to experience studying literature in other climates as well as with our own distinguished department. He also hopes to teach abroad someday, with the idea of teaching where he can situate the literature he’s teaching in the context of its own setting, like teaching Sherlock Holmes in the heart of London or incorporating visits to the moors of Wuthering Heights.

Finally, Blake’s interests are self-described as “a tremendously slow swimmer” and a “clunky guitar player,” citing musical tastes with alternative and indie rock for listening (The Drowners, The National, Wilco, Cat Power, Foxygen) and playing “anything easily chorded” such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Canadian band Cowboy Junkies. Easily his primary interest nowadays is spending time with his family; his wife and two boys, Sam and Teddie, who are six and four respectively. Blake mentioned loving to watch how his boys are developing different interests, and how they interact with each other.