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Bainard Cowan, Ph.D.

Bainard Cowan joined the University of Dallas faculty as the Cowan Chair in 2009. Animating his teaching, writing and academic projects have been the great forms of the poetic imagination, whose deep unity he first encountered in UD’s literary tradition course sequence. Since then, he has sought to bring that priceless realization to as many others as possible.

Prior to the University of Dallas, Cowan taught American and world literature at Louisiana State University for over thirty years. There, he co-founded the Comparative Literature Doctoral Program and co-developed a classic-core curriculum in the honors college. From 1992 to 1997 he directed a series of summer institutes on “poetics of the Americas” for some 100 Louisiana college teachers, supported by substantial grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Louisiana Board of Regents. In 1984-85 he was LSU’s first visiting professor at the Université de Provence in Aix-en-Provence, and from 2006 to 2008 he was the D’Alzon visiting professor at Assumption College.

Also a fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, he has given approximately 50 special lectures to audiences there and at colleges across the United States. 


  • B.A. in English Literature, University of Dallas, 1970
  • Fulbright-supported study, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, 1970-71
  • Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Yale University, 1975

Academic Appointments

  • Louisiana State University: Instructor to Professor, 1975-2008
  • University of Dallas: Cowan Chair, Professor of Literature, 2009-present
  • Visiting positions:
    • University of Provence, Aix-en-Provence, 1984-85
    • University of Dallas, 2001
    • D’Alzon Visiting Professor, Assumption College, 2006-2008

Recent Courses

  • Undergraduate Courses: Literary Tradition 1; The European Novel; Epic Traditions of India, China, Japan
  • Undergraduate/Graduate Cross-Listed Courses: Russian Novel; Literary Criticism and Theory; Melville and Hawthorne
  • Graduate Courses: The Ancient World; History & Theory of the Novel; (with Dr. Robert Wood) Hegel, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky

Research Interests

  • The novel as a form, especially in America, Russia, France, and Germany
  • The Western epic from Homer to Dante
  • Ancient and modern critical thought

Selected Publications

  • Book: Exiled Waters: “Moby-Dick” and the Crisis of Allegory (LSU Press, 1982)
  • Selected edited books:
    • Poetics of the Americas (LSU Press, 1997)
    • Gained Horizons: Regensburg and the Enlargement of Reason (St. Augustine’s Press, 2011)
    • The Prospect of Lyric (Dallas Institute Publications, 2012)
  • Selected articles:
    • “Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Allegory,” New German Critique No. 22 (1981): 109-22
    • “Dante’s ‘Novella Tebe,’” Comparatist 6 (1982): 16-23
    • “Moby Dick as the Preservation of Reading,” Approaches to Teaching Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” ed. Martin Bickman (MLA, 1985), 51-55
    • “America Between Two Myths: Moby-Dick as Epic,” The Epic Cosmos, ed. Larry Allums (Dallas Institute Publications, 1992), 219-248
    • “Tarrying with the Tragic: Hegel and His Critics,” The Tragic Abyss, ed. Glenn Arbery (Dallas Institute Pubns., 2004), 39-58
    • “Through the Unlit Door of Earth: Sophocles’ Transformation of Tragedy,” The Tragic Abyss 145-164
    • “Reason and Revelation in Dante’s Divine Comedy,” Ramify 5.2 (2016): 81-88