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Idaho State University
Hal Hellwig

Hal Hellwig

Associate 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 presenting numerous conference or invited papers on his work internationally and nationally.  I continue to do research on travel, though I have expanded my work to about 45 American writers, artists, and sculptors who traveled to or lived in Italy, primarily Venice.  

Virtually every chiesa or church in Venice reminds the worshipper of the promise of an afterlife of redemption and salvation, while also demonstrating the wealth     of Venice in its prime, with art symbolic of the unity of purpose between the earthly and the divine.

Some reject this vision, Twain, for example, though the architectural symbolism is not lost on him.  Others are on a continuum of faith, appropriating and shifting the symbolic meanings toward their own ends.  To find the ends of this continuum, 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’m also finishing a book on film noir.  Film noir is, as claimed by most critics, a relatively minor and recent offshoot of American culture, until the Europeans (French critics mostly) discovered this American innovation.  My book will, however, show how film noir techniques and concepts were embedded in American culture from the beginning of American history, and not something found just in the immediate timeframe when film noir emerged.  I argue that a good deal of what film noir does still emanates within American culture, evident in current Hollywood products such as Blade Runner 2049 and in older television series such as Perry Mason, Have Gun Will Travel, Bones, Twilight Zone, and so many other shows from the 1960’s through our own period, including Criminal Minds, Luther, NCIS and Killing Eve—to the point that some comedy shows, such as Frasier, demonstrate strong elements of the film noir tradition.  This tradition includes a conversation about identity, community, deception, nostalgia, travel (as mythic journey), memory, and moral guidance. 


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

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

Frasier: A Film Noir Comedy,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, forthcoming. Either issue 48(1), March 2020, or 48(2), June 2020.

“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.

Courses Taught

I’ve taught the following courses, among many others:                   

English 6666: Nineteenth Century Literature - Travel Literature

English 6627: Major Authors - Mark Twain

English 3353: The West in American Literature

English 3307: Professional and Technical Writing

English 1102: Writing and Rhetoric II