Paul Grimstad


The classroom stirs literary and philosophical passions for Paul Grimstad’s students


One student described how Paul Grimstad made Edgar Allan Poe so alive in his class that it felt almost as though the author was a close friend. Grimstad, honored with the 2104 Sarai Ribicoff ’79 Award for Teaching Excellence in Yale College, inspires a love of learning in his students simply by sharing his own excitement and enthusiasm, and he, in turn, is fueled by the intellectual curiosity and intensity of the Yale undergraduates he teaches. (Grimstad was traveling far and wide after receiving his teaching award and was unable to participate in a video interview, but graciously answered questions via email.)

Courses: “Readings in American Literature,” “Edgar Allan Poe,” “Detective Fiction” “Poe to the Present,”  “Science (and) Fiction,” and Directed Studies Program courses in philosophy and literature


In his Inaugural Address, Peter Salovey said that students are one of the “treasures” of Yale. What excites you about teaching Yale undergraduates?

Their curiosity, intensity, and intellectual adventurousness.

Do you learn anything from your students?


What drew you to teaching and what do find rewarding about it?

I got into teaching completely by accident. In graduate school I was assigned a section in a course on “Moby-Dick and discovered teaching was incredibly fun.

Is there a teacher you’ve had who especially inspired you?

My passion for teaching comes from books — fiction, poetry, philosophy — and also music, film, etc. What happens in seminar is the effort to pass along the excitement I feel about works I care about.

If there is one thing you’d like your students to learn, what would that be?

Your life is a work in progress and there is a lot you don’t know.

What advice would you give to a Yale undergraduate about his or her time here?

Take literature and philosophy courses!

Is there a memorable classroom experience you’d like to share?

There have been so many!