Close up of Nevada Writers Hall of Fame medal

John H. Irsfeld

2003 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee


John H. Irsfeld was born in Bemidji, Minnesota, and grew up mostly in Mineral Wells, Texas. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1959 at the University of Texas at Austin, and then taught high school Spanish and English in Calallen, Texas, before serving in the U.S. Army Infantry from 1961-1964. While in the military, he taught ESL at Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico. He then returned to UT-Austin, where he earned his Master of Arts (1966) and Ph. D. (1969) degrees in English and American literature. He became a member of the English Department faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 1969, becoming a full professor in 1977, and is a specialist in creative writing, non-fiction, poetry and poetics, classical literature in translation, the history of literary criticism, and theories of literary modernism. His teaching interests also included the film and literature of war.

During his career at UNLV, he twice served as Chair of the English Department, from 1977-1984 and from 2000-2004. From 1977-1984, he served as Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Letters during the Dean's absences from campus. He also served as Deputy to the University President (1987-1994), Vice President of the University from 1990-1994, and Corporate Secretary of the UNLV Foundation (1987-1994). He is a member of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association and the Modern Language Association of America. He was a member of the University of Nevada Press Editorial Advisory Board from 1985-1994, a member of its Executive Committee from 1985-1988, and was Chairman of its Executive Board from 1988-1990. He was a member of the Nevada Humanities Committee from 1981-1987.

As Senior Editor, he wrote the monthly column "On the Other Hand" for The Las Vegan city magazine from November 1980 to May 1985. He then wrote the monthly column "Commentary" for LV The Magazine of Las Vegas from August 1985 to August 1987. He served on the advisory board for the American Literary Review: A National Journal of Poems and Stories, published by the University of North Texas, from 1990-1997, and for New Texas 98in 1998.

He was the recipient of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Barrick Scholar Award for 1985-1986. In 1994, he received the Nevada Governor's Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts. He was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 1998. He received the 2007-2008 Rita Deanin Abbey Excellence in Teaching Award at UNLV. He collaborated with six other southern Nevada writers to create a serial mystery novel, Restless City, for the 2009 Vegas Valley Book Festival.