By KELLY DANIELS
Mississippi State’s 2010 Humanities Teacher of the Year honor has been awarded to a professor responsible for bringing a Nobel Prize-winning novelist to campus.
Foreign language professor Dr. Keith Moser, who received his master’s degree at Mississippi State University, said that since his return in 2007, his colleagues have given him unwavering support.
“I humbly accept this award, and I also accept the responsibility that it entails in terms of my continued support of humanistic values in the modern world,” Moser said.
Last year, Dr. Moser successfully invited Franco-Mauritian novelist J.M.G. Le Clézio, who won the 2008 Novel Prize in Literature, to speak at MSU on the definition of literature.
Le Clézio’s books were the focus of Dr. Moser’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Tennessee before he came to MSU.
“I immediately realized what this historical visit would mean for my students, our department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the entire university,” Moser said.
“I was initially in disbelief because Le Clézio rarely accepts such invitations. Although he is modest and easy to approach, Le Clézio has often been quite reclusive
throughout his illustrious career culminated by the Nobel Prize in literature.”
Moser’s current projects include a collection of essays with any Le Clézio expert Dr. Bruno Thibault that will be published by L’Harmattan. In 2009, Dr. Moser helped organize an international conference at MSU in which presenters from a dozen countries and four continents presented their latest research related to Le Clézio.
“Dr. Thibault and I plan to publish these essays, along with an interview with J.M.G. himself related to his Foundation for Interculturality and Peace next year,” Dr. Moser said, hoping the book will come out in 2011.
The foreign language scholar finds the “musical sonorities” of the French language pleasant to hear, and while taking upper-level French literature courses as an undergraduate, he rediscovered his initial passion for literature. “When I was young, I was an avid reader,” Moser said.
Among the many ideas and he finds beautiful about Le Clézio’s books is an emblem of the human condition: “The mixture of poignant moments of searing pain and intense instants of happiness.”
“In spite of the incredible sorrow that life entails, we are able to valorize life because of the moments of happiness that provide us with a sense of purpose and a renewed zest to take advantage of the finite time that we have on this earth. Although many authors choose to focus solely on anguish or sadness, I find Le Clézio’s balanced worldview to be both realistic and pragmatic,” Moser said.
“I think that this combination of stark realism and life-affirming ecstasy is quite rare in the literary world.”
In the classroom, Moser says he tries to get students to think critically about the most important issues of their time, such as the materialistic obsessions of our consumer society, the rapid depletion of the earth’s natural resources, pollution, the effects of globalization, armed conflicts, the suffering of marginalized peoples, etc.
“I ask challenging and disconcerting questions related to the modern world, but I encourage my students to create their own possible answers to these complex issues.”
The Humanities Teacher of the Year award is MSU’s highest honor for professors teaching courses that involve examining the human condition.