Sumner, who has been at Linfield since 2004, will teach two courses at the University of Bayreuth in Bayreuth, Germany: Western Myth and Western Literature, and American Nature Writing.
Sumner's specialty is American nature writing and western American literature. He will help students explore the literature of the American West, bringing to it both a sympathy for and a critical perspective on western literature and myth and the American nature tradition.
"I hope to offer a perspective on the West through the study of its literature," Sumner said. "But I also hope to gain a greater understanding of the appeal of the western story and myth to the German people along with a new critical perspective on the literature."
Sumner said that the German speaking cultures have a long nature tradition, evident in German romanticism. This tradition feeds German interest in the American myths of the cowboy, the logger, the miner and the pioneer. It is apparent today in Germany in rodeos, Native American reenactments and Wild West shows.
Sumner said he has not lived or studied abroad for any significant amount of time, and believes this opportunity will help broaden his perspective, something that is important both to him and to his students. In addition, he hopes to develop a January Term course that may focus on Western literature and its intersection with German culture.
"Because the German speaking culture have been fascinated with the American West and its stories and myths, there are connections that can be made," he said. "I'm really interested in seeing how Germans react to these Western texts and ideas. I've always taught them to Americans who are immersed in the stories and the culture. Now I'm interested in an outsider's perspective, from individuals who either are not familiar with the stories, or who have a different perspective on them."
Sumner has bachelor's from the University of Utah, a master's degrees from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. He is the author of numerous articles and has published several interviews with American nature writers including Terry Tempest Williams, Barry Lopez and David Quammen.