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Brian Solomon’s Guide To The Stars: English Professor Jeff Sharlet

Dartmouth has a wealth of experienced professors who lead their respective research fields, while also working closely with students — inspiring them in the classroom and leading them in laboratory environments. And while at Dartblog we talk frequently about problems that need to be fixed at the College, there are still many bright spots. Our professors deserve more recognition for their achievements. As such, this is one of a series of posts that shines a spotlight on the best professors in Hanover:

Jeff Sharlet2.jpgJeff Sharlet is an Associate Professor of English as well as a bestselling author of six books and a contributing editor for Harper’s, Rolling Stone, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He’s also a contributor to GQ, where he’s written a series of incisive pieces of literary journalism in the last few years.

Sharlet got his start at his alma mater, Hampshire College; then he wrote for the San Diego Reader; edited at Pakn Treger, an English-language magazine about Yiddish culture; and worked as a senior humanities writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Motivated by a deep interest in religion and culture, he started KillingTheBuddha.com, an online literary magazine, with Peter Manseau in 2000. That effort led to Sharlet’s first book with Manseau, Killing The Buddha: A Heretic’s Guide, which was the result of a yearlong road trip the pair took to examine the “underbelly of America’s religious culture.”

In 2003 Sharlet joined New York University’s Center for Religion and Media as a research scholar. While there, he created The Revealer, a review of religion and the media, with a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust. He came to Hanover in 2009.

Sharlet broke out in 2008 with his New York Times bestseller, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, which Publisher’s Weekly called “a chilling expose.” The book explored the inner workings of a secret fundamentalist Christian lobbying group in Washington D.C. It called attention to the little-known but politically influential religious organization, with members that include sitting senators and a reach that stretches as far as Uganda. To learn more about the work, listen to Sharlet’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air or the following interview on The Daily Show:

Sharlet has joked that his greatest distinction is “Ann Coulter’s designation of him as one of the stupidest journalists in America.” He has won many awards for his journalism, including the Molly Irvins National Journalism Prize from the Texas Observer, the Thomas Jefferson Award presented by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and the Outspoken Award by OutRight Action International.

More recently, Sharlet won the 2015 National Magazine Award for Reporting after publication of his stunning GQ article, “Inside the Iron Closet: What It’s Like to Be Gay in Putin’s Russia.” The story documented government-backed, grass-roots violence against the LGBT community, as well as the activists and couples who bravely risk their lives for love. For other feature stories by Sharlet, check out The Invisible Man: The End of A Black Life That Mattered, also in GQ; and the cover story in the April 12 The New York Times Magazine, Donald Trump, American Preacher.

Sharlet’s teaching at Dartmouth, where there is no journalism major, includes advanced courses in the English department about literary journalism. During the coming 2016-2017 academic year, he will teach English 73, a senior seminar on the intersection of writing, photography, and other media; English 81 and 84 on creative nonfiction; and English 86, a senior creative writing workshop. The students in Sharlet’s creative nonfiction courses learn in part by contributing to 40 Towns, his online literary journal about the Upper Valley.

Addendum: We looked at Jeff’s book Sweet Heaven When I Die in a post on April 20, 2013.

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