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Photograph of John McGowan

John W. and Anna H. Hanes Distinguished Professor



My work has been in literary and political theory, with a focus on how the intellectual traditions in the US and the UK have shaped current cultural and political attitudes, values, and debates.  I blog irregularly about what I am reading and about contemporary culture and politics at McGowanBlog ( and I do a podcast with UNC English PhD alums Elizabeth Stockton and Andy Crank.  Called “The Sound and the Furious,” you can find episodes of the podcast at


1974, BA, English, Georgetown University

1978, PhD, English, University of Buffalo


  • Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (W. W. Norton, 3rd edition, 2018).
  • Postmodernism and its Critics (Cornell UP, 1991).
  • Hannah Arendt: An Introduction (University of Minnesota Press, 1998).
  • Democracy’s Children: Intellectuals and the Rise of Cultural Politics (Cornell UP, 2002).
  • American Liberalism: An Interpretation for Our Time (University of North Carolina Press, 2007).
  • Pragmatist Politics: Making the Case for Liberal Democracy (University of Minnesota Press, 2012).


  • Graduate Mentoring Award, Comparative Literature and English Association of Graduate Students, 2004 and 2015
  • Sitterson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2005
  • Award for Excellence in Teaching Post-Baccalaureate Students, 2002
  • Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1999


  • Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, National Humanities Center, 2017-18
  • Erasmus Mundus Scholar, University of Trento, 2011
  • Co-Director (with James Thompson of UNC) of Mellon Foundation Summer Seminar for Doctoral Students on “History and the Aesthetic Object.” Amount: $230,000. 2004
  • Co-Director (with Allen Dunn, University of Tennessee), NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers on “Literature and Values.” Total Amount of Grant: $106,000. 1997 and 2001.
  • NEH Fellowship for College Teachers, 1987-88.
  • NEH Fellowship, 1988-89
  • National Humanities Center Fellowship, 2017-18

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