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Hal Hellwig

Hal Hellwig

Professor of English

Office: LA 207-D



PhD in English (1985), University of California, Los Angeles

MA in English (1976), California State University, Fullerton

BA in English (1972), State University of New York, Buffalo

I’m a recognized Mark Twain scholar, having published a book on his travel works, and I present conference papers on his work internationally and nationally.  I have a book contract with Lexington Books for Film Noir Genres, which will be in press in 2022 or early 2023. 

A definition of film noir tends to circle around the notion that an individual (usually male) finds himself lost in an urban setting, beset by corrupt or criminal characters, seduced by a devious woman (the stock character, femme fatale), and attempts to right wrongs committed in that film.  The setting can include a diseased large urban area--Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York the usual cesspools of humanity--with these cities described in terms of a labyrinth or maze, which the protagonist needs to navigate to survive. It rains a lot, daylight scenes are rare, and the city is filled with dark creatures of the night.

I argue that film noir depends a good deal on the literature embedded in American culture well before the immediate experiences and influences of the 1930's, that American literature of earlier periods- to those writers deriving from the Transcendentalist period- helped created the environment for film noir.  Film noir evolved from a literary tradition to a set of film adaptations that focus on the isolated self in society and transformed itself into a convention-bound set of genres much different from the defective detective or manipulated male found in classic films such as Out of the Past, The Big Sleep, or Double Indemnity.   These new genres include science fiction in television and movies; comedy in television; Western in movies and in television; forensic science in television; and an assortment of urban crime shows in television.

I have expanded my work on travel to about 45 American writers, artists, and sculptors who traveled to or lived in Italy, primarily Venice, with a focus on their secular appropriation of religious concepts.

I spent some time in 2017 at the Vittore Branca Center, a residential center sponsored by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini (an educational/cultural institution based on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore), working in the Nuova Manica Lunga, a library with extensive material on art history, on the culture of Venice, on music, on theatre, and on literature.  I have also presented conference papers on the topic of the influence of Italian culture on American literature, one in Venice.  My latest article on this research interest appeared in the fall of 2021.

I have expertise in the fields of rhetoric and composition, with publications in those areas, and with administrative experience as the Director of Composition (nearly nine years). I have been the General Editor of a previous self-study accreditation report for ISU.  I am a Consulting Editor for The Explicator (over ten years). Some of my former students have done well (employed as university professors, business executives, technical writers); one recently (2019) received a $1,000 award for his entry in the Norton Writer's Prize contest (a national recognition).


Mark Twain's Travel Literature: The Odyssey of a Mind. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press (2008).

Film Noir Genres.  Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books (late 2022, or early 2023)

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

"Innocence at Home": The Cultural Influence of Italy on Mark Twain's Life,” Mark Twain Journal, Volume 59, Number 2, Fall 2021.  77-105.

Frasier: A Film Noir Comedy,” Journal of Popular Film and Television. Volume 48, Issue 1. 2-12. 2020.

Book Review: Mark Twain Annual, Volume 16, 186-189. On Wonder and Irony with Henry James and Mark Twain in the Venice Ducal Palace. Rosella Mamoli Zorzi. Venice: Supernova, 2018.

Book Review: South Central Review: The Journal of the South Central Modern Language Association. Vol. 34, No. 2. Summer 2017. On Faulkner and Film, edited by Philip Lurie and Ann J. Abadie, introduction by Philip Lurie. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014. 72-75.

“William Blake’s Jerusalem and the Los Angeles of Film Noir,” Philosophy and Literature, Volume 38, Number 1, April 2014.

"Venice and the Decline of the West: Henry James, Mark Twain, and the Memorials of the Past," Henry James Today, John Carlos Rowe, editor, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014.

Recent Presentations

"Venice, Italy, and the Influence on Twain's Life and Satire on Capitalism," 'Humor in America' conference sponsored by the American Humor Studies Association and the Mark Twain Circle of America. Chicago, Illinois. July 12-14, 2018.

"'Innocence at Home': Mark Twain's Italian Villa, Stormfield, and the Cultural Influence of Italy on Quarry Farm." The Eighth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies. Elmira College, New York. August 5, 2017.

"Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad: Among the Monuments of Time." Presented to the faculty and students at the University of Venice. April 10, 2017. Ca'Bernardo, Sala B. Organizzato da Daniela Ciari Forza. Universta Ca'Foscari Venezia. Dipartimento di Studie Linguistici e Culturali Comparati.

"Venice: Mark Twain, A Vulgar Tourist Among the Phantoms of Poetry and Romance." Mark Twain Special Session. Dallas, Texas: South Central Modern Language Association Convention, November 3, 2016.

"Classroom Example of Twain's Following the Equator as a Digital Edition." Program arranged by the Modern Language Association Committee on Scholarly Editions, a session entitled "Pedagogy and Digital Editions." Vancouver: Modern Language Association Convention. January 2015.

"'Innocence at Home': Stormfield, Quarry Farm, and Mark Twain's Amanuensis of Time." The Seventh International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies. Elmira College, New York. August 2, 2013.

"Venice: Confluence of Images, Myth, and Vision," Henry James, Mark Twain, and Globalization. Program arranged by the Mark Twain Circle of America and the Henry James Society. Boston, Massachusetts: Modern Language Association Convention, January 4, 2013.

Courses Taught

English 6666: Nineteenth Century Literature - Travel Literature

English 6627: Major Authors - Mark Twain

English 6621: Place in Detective Fiction (partially online)

English 3353: The West in American Literature

English 3308: Business Communications (both classroom and online)

English 3307: Professional and Technical Writing (both classroom and online)

English 1126: Art of Film I

English 1102: Writing and Rhetoric II (both classroom and online)