Originally from beautiful Vancouver B.C., I have an Honours B.A. in English and History from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Cornell University. Since 1995, I have been a member of the English Department at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (click here to visit my academic website). After all these years ‘out east,’ I am still adjusting to snow, ice, and spring that doesn’t arrive until June. I am married to a philosopher specializing in analytic epistemology and philosophy of religion. We have two extraordinary children: a 19-year-old son who’s a computer whiz as well as a very talented musician and composer (now a Dalhousie student himself ) and a splendid 15-year-old daughter with a great singing voice who will still sometimes sit down and watch a movie with her mom. If you’re in the Halifax area, you can catch them busking together sometimes at the Seaport Market: it’s a treat!
At Dalhousie, my main teaching area is the Victorian novel; I have a particular admiration for George Eliot and assign her greatest novel, Middlemarch, whenever possible. I regularly offer courses in detective fiction as well; my other teaching and research interests include ethical criticism, intersections between literature and moral philosophy, historical fiction and historiography, and the role of literature and criticism in contemporary life. One of my recent academic projects is an anthology of Victorian critical writing on the novel for Broadview Press. Click here for my full academic curriculum vitae.
I have been blogging at Novel Readings since January 2007; from March 2008 to August 2010 I also contributed to the academic group blog The Valve. I started blogging because I wanted to vary and extend the conversations I could have about books. More particularly, I felt frustrated by the gap between academic literary criticism and literary culture more broadly. It seemed to me that blogging was one way to bridge that gap: I could make my specialized academic work more transparent and accessible, and I could also experiment with critical writing aimed at making that work more relevant and interesting, and maybe even useful, to non-academic readers. My experience of blogging so far has actually exceeded these expectations. The openness and immediacy of blogging make it a refreshing, if occasionally nerve-wracking, complement to the narrow specialization and glacial pace of academic publishing. Blogging has also given me an outlet (some might say, an excuse!) to write about a wider array of books and topics, which has helped keep me intellectually alert and also led to some unexpected new directions and connections for my ‘official’ research. Best of all, blogging has brought me into contact with a rich and varied community of readers in and out of the academy who love books and want to talk or write about them as well as possible.
There’s really only one, but it’s persistent, so I’ll answer it right away: people always wonder about the origins of my name. Briefly, no, it was not chosen from Tolkein: it’s French (though I’ve learned, over the years, that it’s also Gaelic and Sanskrit), and it’s pronounced “Rowan.” It came to me by way of a good family friend who was distantly related to the Cardinal de Rohan. I’m not related to him myself, though. However, according to a letter my great-aunt sent me years ago, I am related to Elizabeth Barrett Browning–so if things had gone a little differently I might have been ‘Aurora‘ instead.