Dr. Brian Donovan


Office/Department: English

Location: Hagg-Sauer Hall 374

Phone: (218) 755-2838

Box #: 23

Email: bdonovan@bemidjistate.edu

Website: website

Edit Your Contact Information


Brian is our resident Philhellene, a lover of Greece and much that is Greek, notably including the ancient language.

He earned his baccalaureate degree from Amherst College (in Massachusetts) and his doctorate from the University at Albany (New York), both in English, with studies at the University of Sussex and the University of Iowa along the way. He has taught with the department since 1990, moving to Bemidji from his native upstate New York to take the position.

His scholarly specialty is ancient Greek rhetoric, on which subject he has published articles in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Educational Theory, and The American Journal of Philology. His teaching repertoire includes Shakespeare (to which he brings an actor’s perspective) and other British and European and World literature; rhetorical theory, at the graduate level; and courses in the Honors and Philosophy programs.

Like almost all English faculty he also teaches first-year writing, which itself is essentially rhetoric, and he mentors the department’s teaching graduate assistants who also share in that teaching. His favorite aspect of teaching at BSU is the opportunity to subvert the class system of the United States of America. During his years at BSU he has taken two full-year sabbaticals, both spent (you guessed it!) in Greece, using some of the excellent library collections there for his research—most recently on the rhetorician Isocrates, Plato’s great rival in the field of higher education in fourth-century-B.C. Athens. (Photo-illustrated memoirs of both sabbaticals are on Brian’s Web site.) Other avocations include acting (especially in Shakespeare and Gilbert & Sullivan), cycling, and scuba diving.

For next semester (Spring 2015) I am teaching an Understanding Lit under the title “The Invention of Love,” that being the title of a recent play by Tom Stoppard that will serve as the main or anchor text. We shall get to that play, though, only at the end of the semester, after first surveying the extensive and easily enjoyable (often hilarious) literature that the play abundantly alludes to. This survey will start with the poems of A. E. Housman, who appears as the play’s main character twice over: both as an old man lately deceased and entering the Underworld, and as a young man remembered. The whole is designed to acquaint students with the pleasure of being in the know about the other literature that a given work of literature alludes to and assumes familiarity with. I will also be teaching Topics or Philosophers: Presocratics and Sophists for the Philosophy department, and my usual Argument & Exposition.


State University of New York