University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


  Professor Bob Nowlan

    I work 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.

    I have been actively involved in many organizations, causes, and movements on the progressive left ever since I was a young boy.  This political activity has been a significant part of my life and a major factor in shaping who I am and what I am about. 

    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.

    I absolutely, most definitely love reading diverse mystery and detective fiction, especially "hardboiled" or "noir" fiction (and in particular gay/queer, from Scotland, and from Northern England).  I greatly enjoy teaching crime fiction, and also, as aforementioned, likewise, watching quality crime fiction television series.

    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 am ethnically Roman Catholic, although I left off active involvement in the Church ironically enough shortly after the time in which I was officially confirmed as a “soldier for Christ” (over thirty-five years ago).  Right now, my own religious position might best be described as agnostic and post-theistic.   At the same time, spiritually, I also am interested in aspects of neo-paganism, especially Celtic-affiliated, and Buddhism, especially queer-oriented.  And, after years of steadily increasingly regular involvement, I became an official member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire (UUCEC) in May 2013.  I am enthusiastic about my participation in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation as well as about Unitarian Universalism more broadly conceived and practiced--and I have been happy to help out at the UUCEC as a worship associate and program assistant at services as well as on the Worship Services and Membership committees. 

    When I was younger, I used to run regularly, including in road races.  I don’t run regularly any more, although I still strive to keep in good physical shape.  I am a fan of many spectator sports, including football, basketball, and baseball--as well as soccer [i.e., "futbol"] (in particular, European or "Association" football).  I also am interested in hurling, Gaelic football, and Australian rules football.  And I am a long-time, passionate Green Bay Packers fan (and a team owner as well).   I am, in addition, a long-time Cincinnati Reds and Syracuse Orange fan as well as a more recent fan of both Manchester United and (Glasgow) Celtic.  

    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.


    Some 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 began working at UWEC as a tenure-track assistant professor with the start of the fall 1997 semester.  I was granted tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor by the Wisconsin Board of Regents, officially beginning on August 25, 2003, in response to successive positive recommendations from the UWEC English Department Personnel Committee, UWEC English Department Chair Marty Wood, UWEC College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ted Wendt, UWEC Provost Ronald Satz, and UWEC Chancellor Donald Mash.  I was also deeply honored to be awarded the 2003 UWEC Excellence in Service Award at the opening meeting of the 2003-2004 academic year  for all university faculty and staff (on August 26, 2003); this award recognizes activities outside of the classroom that promote excellence in education and enhance the university's public image.  This followed me winning the Michael Lynch Award from the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the Modern Language of Association of America in December of 2002 in commemoration for my academic activist work on behalf of gay-lesbian-bisexual-and-transgender freedom, justice, and equality.  I have long been a pioneer in boldly teaching and working on behalf of multiple gay-lesbian-bisexual-and-transgender issues and causes (but I never deliberately aimed to be so, as I just did what I found right and necessary, and then, time after time, subsequently found out that I had been pioneering when I hadn't realized I was).

    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.

    My parents, Marilyn Lyons Nowlan and Robert Anthony Nowlan Jr., have been divorced since I was a child (my father remarried [to Gwendolyn, or 'Wendy," Wright Nowlan]; my mother did not).  I have two brothers, Philip Lyons Nowlan and Edward Sean Nowlan, and a sister, Jennifer Louise Nowlan, all younger than me, and two nephews and two nieces (Ally, Tom, John, and Cate--all children of my brother Ed and his ex-wife Amy).  All of these latter members of my immediate biological family currently live either in Connecticut or Massachusetts.  Other members of my immediate family include Crystal Nowlan, my brother Phil's wife; Peter Golanski, my sister Jennifer's husband; and Christine Froio Nowlan, my brother Ed's wife. 

    I taught at the college and university level for twelve years before coming to UWEC--at Southern Connecticut State University, Syracuse University, State University of New York at Cortland, Onondaga Community College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Arizona State University, and the New School University.   I also organized and taught numerous free university courses to the general public while living in Syracuse, New York, and in Tempe, Arizona (I more recently continued this kind of educational outreach through projects such as the Eau Claire Progressive Film Festival).   (I've spent the vast bulk of my time and energy the past 29 years of my life devoted to teaching--and I've thereby taught approximately 15,000 different students in my classes to date.)   I have received numerous commendations and citations for my achievements in teaching.

    I received my BA in 1983 from Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, as well as my MA in 1985 and my PhD in 1993 from Syracuse University, in Syracuse, New York.   I graduated in 1979 from Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford, Connecticut.

    I  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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