PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
as a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau
Claire and have done so since the start of the fall 1997
semester. My primary areas of interest as a
teacher-scholar include critical theory; cinema studies;
studies in popular music and culture; gay and queer studies;
Scottish and post-WWII British literary and cultural studies;
post-WWII British and American drama and theatre; and mystery
and detective (crime) fiction.
In my scholarly pursuits I work from a Humanist Marxist position. I conceive of Marxism as a philosophy and politics of freedom. Socialism, as I see it, represents the international revolutionary movement of self-emancipation of the exploited working class (the vast majority of the world's population), and Marxism represents the critical theoretical framework that can best explain the problems and limitations of global capitalism that not only make possible but also viable, necessary, and urgent this eventual, ultimate process of transformation. At the same time, I support an independent, non-sectarian version of Marxism that rejects both ultra-leftism and right-opportunism.
I am a member of the Socialist Party U.S.A., an independent socialist party welcoming of involvement of Marxist and non-Marxist socialists, and famously associated with two of my childhood heroes, Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas. I am a Democratic Socialist, rejecting authoritarian, statist, Stalinist and Maoist variants which I believe have falsely claimed to be "socialist" and "communist," and which in actual practice were neither genuinely "socialist" nor "communist." I am a strong opponent of fascism and totalitarianism, in all forms and guises, including fascist and totalitarian currents at work in everyday life of contemporary capitalist societies and cultures.
In addition, I am and have long been (for nearly thirty years now) openly gay. As I see it, our sexualities are complex modes of being and relating in society, and they affect the ways in which we engage in all other forms of social relations, exercising a significant impact on our outlook on life and our everyday engagement in the world. I believe we all are in varying, shifting degrees both gay and straight. I am proud to associate my own understanding of gayness with a radical theorization and practice of gayness conceived and promoted by revolutionary gay liberation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I am a staunch opponent of any and all forms of discrimination, harassment, prejudice, and abuse directed against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, and against homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism even more broadly conceived. I take a very positive, affirmative stance versus the beauty, value, and necessity of a substantially liberated human sexuality in general; I sharply oppose sex-negative positions, whether religious-based or otherwise. And I also continue to work on scholarly projects in this area--from work on my PhD dissertation onward a central scholarly focus for me.
I maintain passionate interests in film and in music. While an undergraduate, I was assistant station manager, music director, and program coordinator for my college radio station, WESU-FM, and I was also a punk/hardcore, post-punk/new wave, and experimental new music disc-jockey. I continue to enjoy all these kinds of music, plus many more varieties as well. I currently am especially compelled by a great deal of recent and contemporary "indie rock" and "indie pop," including fusions of blues, folk, jazz, and country with rock "roots" sources. Of late I have been particularly strongly interested in contemporary indie rock, indie pop, indie folk, indie folk rock, and indie folktronica from Scotland and (especially Northwest) England. And I like a considerable range of "art rock" and "post-rock" music too. In addition, I am, further, seriously interested in progressive forms of (especially "conscious") hip-hop (including queer hip-hop or "homo hop"), multiple directions and traditions in (especially "political") folk, as well as diverse world musics, in particular those directly conceived as deliberate contributions to progressive social change. I enjoy as well a considerable range of electronica, from techno to trance to trip-hop to leftfield and beyond. I greatly enjoy Irish and Scottish "traditional" music, including in contemporary innovative forms, involving multiple fusions and hybrids. I even am becoming an enthusiastic fan of contemporary Scottish hip hop! And, over the course of many years, I frequently went clubbing, dancing at many gay and mixed gay-straight clubs, in many cities in the US and beyond. My all-time favorite rock band is Joy Division. I am in early stages of working on a book tentatively titled Ian Curtis, the Myth and the Music: Critical Theoretical Perspectives.
Moving to teach courses in music as cultural studies starting in the spring of 2008 with "Critical Studies in Contemporary Popular Music Cultures" and then continuing in the fall of 2008 with "Music, Protest, and Resistance" and on into the fall of 2009 once again with "Critical Studies in Contemporary Popular Music Cultures" I have found challenging yet greatly exciting. And the same is certainly true of the next class of this kind I taught in the fall of 2011 as a senior seminar, "Ian Curtis and Joy Division in (Historical and Cultural) Context," as well as of the class I will teach as a senior seminar in the fall of 2014: "Ian Curtis, the Myth and the Music: Critical Theoretical Perspectives."
I am active with Eau Claire's progressive community radio station, WHYS-LP (96.3FM). I dj (produce and host) a weekly music show on this station, Insurgence, focusing on progressive music of protest, struggle, resistance, rebellion, revolt, and transformation as well as classic post-punk and new wave along with contemporary indie rock, pop, folk, folk rock, and folktronica, especially from Scotland and England. I love it; it is the most fun I have had on a consistent basis since I’ve came to Eau Claire in late June of 1997. At WHYS I also served for over three years on the station's Board of Directors as Coordinator/Facilitator (Station President), playing a pivotal role in creating an initial managerial structure for our station.
In the area of film, I am especially fond of film noir and other forms of crime film. But I also maintain interests as well in gay and queer film, in contemporary British and Irish film, and in politically committed and engaged documentary, non-fiction, experimental, and avant-garde film. I like films that have a strong, intelligent sense of story, and of character; I like films that deal with serious ideas in complex and sensitive ways; and I like films that are both innovative in technique and economical in expression. I often enough tend to prefer watching older classic black and white films. Of late I have devoted considerable time watching British, American--and Australian!--television crime series. At UWEC I served for many years as chair of the International Film Committee plus I founded The Eau Claire Progressive Film Festival in 2005 and served as Executive Director through the conclusion of the final year of the festival in May 2012. I also co-wrote, with senior UWEC undergraduate students, two feature-length fictional screenplays, in 2006-2007 and in 2007-2008.
For many years in college and beyond I concentrated in Irish Studies. I have traveled in Ireland eight times as part of extended visits; I am, moreover, of 100% Irish descent (although I recently discovered I am also 1/8 to 1/4 "Scotch-Irish" and that this 1/8 to 1/4 of my ethnic inheritance traces back to Pictish ancestors). All of my Irish ancestors came over in the aftermath of the Great Irish Famine (or "Black 47"). I am proud of my Irish heritage and have been involved in a host of Irish related interests and activities for most of my life.
Over the past thirteen years, I have branched out, beyond this earlier Irish focus, to explore steadily wide-ranging interests in Scottish history, culture, politics, film, literature, and music as well. Scotland and Scottish Studies have become principal passions of mine. I taught two courses in Scottish Studies in the 2010-2011 academic year: Scottish Cinema, in the fall of 2010, and Scottish Crime Fiction, in the spring of 2011, and I taught Scottish Cinema again in the fall 2012 semester. I look forward to teaching Scottish Crime Fiction, and Scottish Cinema, yet again and eventually I would like to teach a class (or classes) in Scottish Literature, from the late 18th through the early 21st century. I have been fortunate to visit Scotland on 18 different occasions since 2003 and to travel widely across the country. I love spending time in and learning about Scotland, past and present. Edinburgh is my favorite city in the world but I am also extremely fond of Glasgow as well (in fact, I think, to be honest, I love Glasgow equally as much as I do Edinburgh). And I maintain highly positive associations with Aberdeen, Dundee, Islay, Orkney, Shetland, St. Andrews, and Perth as well (not to mention diverse areas across the Western and Central Highlands). I am looking forward to doing sustained scholarly work in Scottish Cultural Studies for quite some time to come. The book I have co-edited with my University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee friend and colleague Zach Finch, and to which I have written or co-written 15 essays and other sections, Directory of World Cinema: Scotland, part of Intellect Publishing Company's Directory of World Cinema series, is currently in production and due out in print by the end of 2014. Zach and I expect to co-edit and contribute yet further writing of our own, as well as that from many others, to Directory of World Cinema: Scotland 2, most likely due out by the end of 2017.
I have traveled many times and quite extensively across Britain beyond Scotland as well (England, Wales, and the Isle of Man). I am especially fond of London, Brighton, and Manchester among English cities (particularly Manchester--which closely rivals Edinburgh and Glasgow as my all-time favorite city in the world). It was fantastic, for me, to visit and spend time in Leeds and Sheffield for the very first time this past summer of 2014. I greatly enjoy traveling about, and spending time in, large cities--and in this area of the world I particularly like Minneapolis and Milwaukee (I may well retire to live in one or the other of these two cities). I've also traveled in, visited, and toured about Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, and Stuttgart. And I've been fortunate enough to visit Hawaii on eight separate trips as well (I am especially fond of the Big Island, Oahu, and Maui).
I live in Eau Claire. My partner, Andy Swanson, also works at UWEC, as a lecturer in Mathematics. Andy and I have been together since October 31, 1998, and we were married in June of 2000 at the Unitarian Universalist church in Eau Claire--as well as in New York City (legally) on December 20, 2013. He is the love of my life--a fantastic person, with whom I am truly amazingly fortunate to be together. We have a chocolate point Siamese cat, Brendan, born in August of 2003. In December of 2010 our dog, Bogart, a fawn Chinese pug, died at the age of 14 years and 3 and 1/2 months; he was a great dog, a beloved friend, and we will always remember him with great fondness. We adopted a black Chinese pug puppy, Casey, on May 22, 2011; Casey was born March 23, 2011--he has been a wonderful addition to our family, full of energy and enthusiasm, smart and active, agile and intelligent--a beautiful dog. Casey is, truly, one of Andy's and my best friends.
additional points of interest about me:
I became a full professor as of August 20, 2012, promoted from associate professor--in response to positive recommendations from from the UWEC English Department Full Professor Committee, UWEC English Department Chair Carmen Manning, UWEC College of Arts and Sciences Dean Marty Wood, UWEC Provost Patricia Kleine, and UWEC Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich.
I served as English Department Personnel Committee Chair through the end of the 2012-2013 academic year; I began this position in the summer of 2011. I served as a member of the University Academic Policies Committee since the start of the fall 2009 semester through the end of the spring 2013 semester. At that same time I began work as a Senator representing the Department of English in our University Senate, which I have been recently re-elected to do through the end of the spring 2017 semester. I am a member of the English Department Critical Studies in Literatures, Cultures, and Film emphasis area.
I was born in
Belvidere, Illinois on May 6, 1961 (and, interestingly enough,
given my present location, conceived in Madison, Wisconsin-the
previous summer). I lived the first year of my life in
Marengo, Illinois before moving with my parents to South Bend,
Indiana where I lived for the next seven years. I then
moved with my family to Wallingford, Connecticut where I lived
until I went off to college, and where I lived for short periods
on other occasions since. Besides living in
Illinois, Indiana, Connecticut, and Wisconsin, I have lived in
New York for nine years and in Arizona for two years.
welcome getting to know and working closely with my students,
outside as well as inside of class. I am passionate about
teaching, and about helping my students! It is a
considerable honor, and a great privilege, to be a teacher, and
every class I teach deeply impacts who I am and what I am
about. I aimed to be a teacher ever since I was in middle
school (enjoying the rare opportunity to serve as teacher of my
Advanced Placement English class for almost half of my senior
year in high school), and working directly with students is the
ultimately most satisfying work I do. I am ready,
eager, and willing to do all I can to help my students learn if
they are able and willing to work with me as mutually respectful
and conscientiously dedicated co-partners in this process.
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