University of Wisconsin-Eau


  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; critical studies in television and cinema; 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 align myself with independent socialist organizations and movements 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 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 positive, affirmative stance versus the beauty, value, and necessity of a substantially liberated human sexuality in general; I 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 long-term, passionate interests 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. 
In recent times I have been particularly strongly interested in indie rock, indie pop, indie folk, indie folk rock, and indie electronica from Scotland and (especially Northwest) England.  And I like a considerable range of "art rock" and "post-rock" music too.  In addition, I  maintain serious interests as well 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 innovative forms, involving multiple fusions and hybrids.  I even have recently become an enthusiastic fan of contemporary Scottish hip hop!  And, over the course of many years,  while younger, 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 working on a book tentatively titled Ian Curtis, the Myth and the Music: Critical Theoretical Perspectives.  Ian Curtis was frontman, lyricist, and vocalist for pioneering Manchester, England-based post-punk band Joy Division.

    Moving to teach courses in music as cultural studies I have found challenging yet greatly exciting: 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"; again in the fall of 2009 with
"Critical Studies in Contemporary Popular Music Cultures"; next in the fall of 2011, as a senior seminar, with "Ian Curtis and Joy Division in (Historical and Cultural) Context"; in the fall of 2014, again as a senior seminar, with "Ian Curtis, the Myth and the Music: Critical Theoretical Perspectives"; and, as a 300 level Honors seminar in the fall of 2016 as well as once again in the fall of 2017, with "Ian Curtis and Joy Division: 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 electronica, 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.  I have dj-ed Insurgence since July of 2005.  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 Irish, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian!--television crime series.  I especially love British crime television, and I am happy to have taught "21st Century British Television Detective Series" three semesters in a row, from the fall of 2015 through the fall of 2016.  I am beginning preliminary work on a prospective book, tentatively titled 21st Century British TV Detective Series: a Critical Guide.  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 from the beginning 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 from Scotland and England).  I greatly enjoy teaching crime fiction, and also, as aforementioned, watching 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 1/4 "Scotch-Irish" and that this 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 fourteen 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 then taught Scottish Crime Fiction again in the spring of 2016.  Eventually I would like to teach a class again in Scottish Cinema and another class (or classes) in Scottish Literature, from the late 18th through the early 21st century.  I have been fortunate to visit Scotland on 22 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 but I am also extremely fond of Glasgow as well (in fact, I think, to be honest, I love Glasgow just about 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).  The book I  co-edited with my
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee friend and colleague Zach Finch, and to which I contributed 15 essays and other sections that I wrote, Directory of World Cinema: Scotland, part of Intellect Publishing Company's Directory of World Cinema series, was published in June 2015.  Zach and I are considering eventually co-editing and contributing yet further writing of our own, as well as that from many others, to a follow-up anthology of critical essays on diverse topics in Scottish cinema studies, past and present.  I am proud and pleased to serve as a reader on Dr. Finch's successful PhD dissertation defense in April 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 likely just exceeds Edinburgh and Glasgow as my all-time favorite city in the world).  In the summer of 2016, besides visiting Edinburgh and London, I enjoyed the wonderful experience of visiting Nottingham, Leicester, Cambridge, and Oxford--all for my first time ever.   I am eager to return and explore further.  It was fantastic likewise to visit and spend time in Leeds and Sheffield for the very first time last summer of 2014.  This past summer of 2017 I visited Manchester for the seventh time, the fifth time to coincide with the Manchester International Festival--conducted once every two years for 18 days, mid-summer, since 2007.  The Manchester International Festival is a fantastic festival, and this past summer's 2017 festival was the best ever--likely the most truly 'awesome' experience of my entire life.  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--or move to a large urban area on the east or west coasts of the US).  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 twelve separate trips as well (I am especially fond of the Big Island and Oahu).  

    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 forty 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 have helped out at the UUCEC as a worship associate and program assistant at services as well as on the Worship Services and Membership committees.  I also was the featured speaker and presenter at two remarkable services, one on 'Spiritual Considerations in the Life and Work of Ian Curtis and the Music of Joy Division' and another on 'The Wisconsin Idea' (a mock-funeral service).  I am currently striving for ever greater 'mindfulness', in my daily life, or, in other words, attempting to live something akin to a version of 'the serenity prayer'. 

    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 haven't given up on running for good, and I may yet resume doing so.  I do like to walk a lot, at present.  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 am excited to begin, with the fall 2017 semester, teaching 'Sports, Politics, and Society' as the theme of my Blugold Seminar in Critical Reading and Writing class.  Bringing two long-standing passions of mine together--critical studies and sports--has been quite exhilarating; I may well aim soon to teach an upper-level English class focused on critical studies in sports, politics, and society. 

    I have lived a long time with chronic illness, and invisible disability, and I mention this not only because of its impact upon me but also because I am interested in and supportive of other people's struggles with these kinds of challenges.  I know what it is like to struggle with serious kinds of mental and physical health challenges, including simultaneously, and I tend to be compassionate and empathetic with others who do the same. 

    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. 
Our chocolate point Siamese cat, Brendan, born in August of 2003, died in November of 2016, after thirteen wonderful years with us, as part of our family.  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.  Just this past summer o 2017, in late July, we adopted two shelter kittens, two black domestic shorthair kittens who are sisters, less than four months old when we adopted them: Star and Jet.  They are a great deal of fun, lively, playful, enthusiastic, and they and Casey get along fine. 


    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 am a member of the English Department Critical Studies in Literatures, Cultures, and Film emphasis area. 

    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 and returned to that position with the start of the fall 2014 semester for another three-year term.  At that same time, starting in the fall of 2009, I began work as a Senator representing the Department of English in our University Senate, and I was re-elected at the end of the spring 2013 semester to do so through the end of the spring 2017 semester.  Due to health challenges, I resigned before the start of the fall 2016 semester, and also passed up an opportunity then to become Academic Policies Committee chair.  It was, in retrospect, a wise albeit at the time quite painfully difficult decision, as I am much better a year later, although I've needed to take that time to come to terms with the fact, among the health challenges I face, I 'live on an epileptic continuum'.  In other words, I have epilepsy, and have had it since I was a young boy, although I don't experience 'grand mal' seizures. 

    I began contributing as a member of the Executive Board--as College of Arts and Sciences Representative--of United Faculty and Staff of UW-Eau Claire, American Federation of Teachers Local 6481, in the spring 2015 semester.  Since August 1, 2015 I have been serving a two-year term as Vice-President of
United Faculty and Staff of UW-Eau Claire on August 1, 2015.  I was re-elected to another two year term, at the end of the spring 2017 semester, and will therefore continue as UFAS-UWEC Vice President through August 1, 2019.  I am also a long-time, at-large member of The American Association of University Professors, as well as of the AFL-CIO through Pride at Work.

    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 been a pioneer in 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 in Connecticut, Massachusetts, or New York.  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 33 years of my life devoted to teaching--and I've thereby taught well over 15,000 different students.)  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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Last Updated: August 13, 2017