John McGowan


Greenlaw 413
(919) 962-4022

Former Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and Ruel C. Tyson Distinguished Term Professor

John McGowan's work aspires to follow in the footsteps of John Ruskin, William James, John Dewey, Kenneth Burke, and Hannah Arendt, all figures who are not quite philosophers, political theorists, or cultural critics, but some mixture of the three. His first book, Representation and Revelation: Victorian Realism from Carlyle to Yeats (U Missouri P, 1986), explores the theory and practice of representation in seven Victorian writers. His Postmodernism and its Critics (Cornell UP, 1991) considers the philosophical antecedents to contemporary theory; offers an account of the work of Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Rorty, Said, and Jameson; and presents an alternative political vision (based in a theory of democracy) to that found in postmodern thought. Hannah Arendt: An Introduction (U Minnesota P, 1998) and Hannah Arendt and the Meaning of Politics (U Minnesota, 1997), edited with Craig Calhoun, continue exploring the resources of democratic theory through an engagement with Arendt's work on the public sphere, judgment, and storytelling. McGowan is one of the editors of the massive (2500 pages) new Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2001). His Democracy's Children: Intellectuals and the Rise of Cultural Politics (Cornell UP, 2002) collects essays on the shifting roles of the intellectual and of the university in our time. In response to the shifts in American politics over the past thirty years, American Liberalism: An Interpretation for Our Time (UNC Press, 2007) tries to articulate a liberal vision drawn from Madison and Dewey that can animate a contemporary American politics. McGowan is a founding and active member of UNC's Program in Cultural Studies and currently serves as the Director of UNC's Institute for the Arts and Humanities.


Teaching Awards

Sitterson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2005
Award for Excellence in Teaching Post-Baccalaureate Students, 2002
Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1999



Hire Date: 1992

Ph. D., State University of New York, Buffalo, 1978

M.A., SUNY-Buffalo, 1976

A.B., Georgetown University, 1974

Research Groups and Interests

Comparative Literature
Literature, Medicine, and Culture
Group IX - Critical Theory and Cultural Studies
Group V - English Literature from 1789 to 1900 (Nineteenth-Century British Literature)