PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
retiring as of the end of the Fall 2023 semester after 38
years working as a university faculty member, including 26 as
a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
at UW-Eau Claire since the start of the fall 1997
semester. My primary areas of interest as a
teacher-scholar have included critical theory; critical
studies in television and cinema; critical studies in popular
music and culture; gay and queer studies; 20th to 21st century
literatures and cultures of the nations of the British isles;
post-WWII British and American drama and theatre; mystery and
detective (crime) fiction; sports, politics, and society;
critical mental health and disability studies; and critical
studies in crime, justice, and the law.
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.
I am also, and ever increasingly over the course of my adult life, one who identifies with and is supportive of radical pacifism. This is pacifism that is concerned not merely to object to violence, in war and otherwise, but rather, and ultimately more crucial, to seek to transform the conditions that make possible, give rise to, and often render violence virtually unavoidable--or alternatives to violence seemingly impossible to conceive as other than absurdly utopian.
In addition, I am and have long been (for approximately forty years) out as 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, transgender, and gender non-binary people, and against homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, and gender non-binarism 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 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 in more recent times 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 currently near finished writing a book titled Excessive Flashpoints, Solitary Demands, Darkest Corners: Ian Curtis, Joy Division, Critical Theory, and Me, a part personal memoir. Ian Curtis was frontman, lyricist, and vocalist for pioneering Manchester, England-based post-punk band Joy Division.
Moving mid-way through my career 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." In the spring of 2019 I taught "'Let's Take a Ride Out, See What We Can Find': Popular Music, Issues of Fundamental and Ultimate Concern, Empathy and Solidarity--Ian Curtis, Joy Division, and Critical Theory."
I have long been 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 post-punk, new wave, and indie rock, pop, folk, folk rock, and electronica, especially from the British Isles and in particular 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. In recent years I have devoted considerable time watching British, American--and Irish, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, Belgian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Luxembourgian!--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, as well as at the graduate and advanced undergraduate level, in the Fall of 2018. I taught this focus once again, as my focus for Critical Perspectives on Film, Television, and Moving-Image Culture in the Spring 2020 semester. I am currently near finished writing book one of a multi-volume series titled 21st Century British TV Crime Drama: a Critical Guide, Book One--From Fearless to The Fall, a prospective multi-volume 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 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 was the principal organizer of the Labor Film Series, for two years, from 2017-2019, and I was principal organizer as well for Empowerment Through Solidarity: a Progressive Film Series, in 2019-2020 and 2021-2022. Both of these series are sponsored by United Faculty and Academic Staff of UW-Eau Claire, American Federation of Teachers Local 6481; I served as Vice-President of this union local from 2015-2021, and before that I was College of Arts and Sciences representative on our Executive Council.
For many years in college and beyond I concentrated in Irish Studies. I have traveled in Ireland ten 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 twenty-five 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 became 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. I have been fortunate to visit Scotland on 24 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 Scotland 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. 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 exceeds Edinburgh and Glasgow as my all-time favorite city in the world, although recently London has surged to the top as perhaps my favorite city in the world to visit). 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 in the summer of 2014. During the 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 the 2017 festival was the best ever--likely the most truly 'awesome' experience of my entire life. I am extremely proud to be a supporting member of the Manchester International Festival. In the summer of 2018, I spent 23 days visiting Dublin, London, Plymouth, Southampton, Portsmouth, and Brighton. It was my first time ever in Plymouth, Southampton, and Portsmouth and I enjoyed exhilarating experiences in initially becoming familiar with and discovering each city. I hope to return to them all to explore, and learn, yet much further. In the spring of 2019, during spring break, I had a wonderful time in London. And in the summer of 2019 I once again visited Manchester and Greater Manchester while attending the entirety of the 2019 Manchester International Festival. After three years, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic I returned to spend a total of three wonderful weeks traveling and exploring in London and Edinburgh in the summer of 2022, and I returned to London during spring break 2023. I greatly enjoy traveling about, and spending time in, large 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 fifteen separate trips (I am especially fond of the Big Island and Oahu). With COVID-19 I put all traveling on long-term indefinite hold, but I am glad since to have resumed doing so, and I look forward eventually to exploring global regions I have not yet visited.
in Eau Claire since July 1997 I am in the process of moving,
full-time, to San Diego, California, which my husband and I will
do, for good, as of early June 2024. My husband, and
life-partner, Andy Swanson, has also worked at UW-Eau
Claire, as a lecturer and senior lecturer in Mathematics and
Physics, as well as long-running Director of the UW-Eau Claire
Math Lab. 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. Andy 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. Before than, 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 and Casey was a wonderful member of our family,
full of energy and enthusiasm, smart and active, agile and
intelligent--a beautiful dog--who truly was one of Andy's and my
best friends. Unfortunately, Casey died of cancer in
August 2021 after four months living with this condition and us
striving to do all we could to save his life. In the
summer of 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
were a great deal of fun, lively, playful, and enthusiastic.
We were happy as well that they grew up to be so
different yet strikingly complimentary in character.
They remain beautiful, loving, and highly personable cats, but
due to the impact of allergies and immunosuppressive treatment
we gave Star and Jet to Andy's brother, Eric, and Eric's wife,
Lori, on Labor Day 2023. Since then they are doing fine,
and indeed thriving, in their new home, with their new family,
just outside Chicago. At the end of July 2021 we adopted
the newest member of our family, a puppy born April 15, 2021 who
we named Aidan, a light fawn pug. Aidan is a lovely dog,
highly personable and interactive, as well as exuberantly
energetic and enthusiastic, yet also one who, strikingly,
doesn't fuss at all overnight or while lying quietly besides us
as we are working for multiple hours on end. Aidan has
increasingly become absolutely indispensable to me; I love him
with all my heart.
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 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 feeling much better since then, 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 often (although on rare occasion) experience 'grand mal' seizures.
Even more impactful for me, for well over thirty years I have lived with what I have experienced as a chronic digestive dysmotility condition, which is rooted in central sensitization, a disorder involving an exceedingly sensitive and highly overactive nervous system. Since August 2022 I entered into the fight against the greatest chronic illness I have yet faced: lupus, which had only reached my kidneys by the time of my diagnosis. This is a major and indeed life-threatening autoimmune disease, but I have benefited from great medical care and an effective treatment regimen, although extremely intense and involving seven immensely high-powered prescription medications, with major 'altering' effects. As aforementioned, I am now in remission and well on my way to winning this fight, although I will continue to need to engage in maintenance treatment for years to come.
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). In more recent times I have been a pioneer
in teaching and working with colleagues as someone who is likewise
'out' about living with serious chronic illness and invisible (or
un-visible disability) as well as with recurrent to persistent
serious mental health complications and challenges.
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 began 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 subsequent two year terms, from 2017-2019 and 2019-2021. I am also, besides now long-time membership in the AFT, 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 was born in
Belvidere, Illinois on May 6, 1961 (and, interestingly enough,
given my long-term residence and work in Eau Claire, 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
As a teacher,
I always have welcomed getting to know and working closely with
my students, outside as well as inside of class. I have
been passionate about teaching, and about helping
students! It has been a considerable honor, and a great
privilege, to be a teacher, and every class I have taught deeply
impacts whom 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 has been the ultimately most
satisfying part of the job I have done as a university faculty
member. I have been 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.
Once more, I am
retiring as of the end of the Fall 2023 semester. Andy,
Aidan, and I are moving to live in San Diego, California, upon
retirement, starting in early June 2024.
Return to Professor Bob Nowlan's Home Page
This material is copyrighted (©)Professor Bob Nowlan