updated April 18, 2014. Painting by Margaret Boe Birns

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Nicholas Birns's CV

Brightworld Paintings

I will be giving a plenary address at the 100th anniversary of World War One conference, held in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 14, 2014



See the academic blog of Nicholas Birns


The Twitter feed is the raw material of every official announcement or observation made; the blog is for expanded reflections and some reviews of texts and performances.

New series on History of Literary Criticism , Shakespeare , Literary Theory, Moby-Dick , Emerson and Thoreau , Literary Foundations , Greek Drama , Three Epic Plays , Modern American Drama , and American Literature courses.

Meta-paper on how to give conference papers in English or comparative literature. Students and colleagues have said they have found this paper helpful--feel free to peruse.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is your mailing address?

Either 205 East Tenth St. New York, NY 10003 or Eugene Lang College, 65 W. 11th Street, New York, NY 10011. Either one is fine, but do not sent anything to any other New School address other than that one.

<> What is your methodology?

My methodology has been described as 'postcolonial eclecticism'. Though not covering everything--I have strong interests in Christianity, the Middle Ages, etc.--this tag does reflect that I have an unusually strong footing in postcolonial areas due to my Australian interests, combined with the fact that I work in many areas and contexts. There is, though, an underlying unity to the multiple strands of my work and this will become more apparent as time proceeds.

"Why are you, a non-Australian, interested in Australian literature?"

The answer can be found in this interview with Ramona Koval

You used to be editor of Powys Notes . Does the journal still exist?

The journal ended in 2002 when I could not find anyone to take over as Editor. the last issue was published that year; the last conference of the organization was held in 2001--at the World Trade Center, five months before the attacks. Those interested in John Cowper Powys should look at my article on Porius published in 2010 and also at the Powys Society website. I gave a lecture on Powys at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library, Hillsdale, NY on September 22, 2012.

is your Theory book primarily a textbook?

It can certainly be used as a textbook, and anecdotes and royalty statements indicate it is so being used, and I am glad of it. But it is a work of intellectual history that can benefit those on a higher level not simply seeking to use it as a text

Are you related to the other people named 'Birns' that show up on the Internet?

Probably, in some cases distantly, in some cases less so. My father, Larry Birns, is the Director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs while my mother, Margaret Boe Birns, is a well-known lecturer on literature in the NY area as well as a painter (her paintings are reproduced on this page and on the Brightworld link).

Can you help with employment opportunities at the New School?

No, I am not a dean or chair and have no authority to hire. Those who wish to teach at the New School should contact the head of the relevant program, with the caution that, unlike fifty years ago, the process by which one might obtain a teaching position at the New School is very much analogous to other major universities in the New York area and nationwide and most positions are obtained through national searches. Job postings are available on the New School web site.

Are you a specialist in Australian literature?

I did my dissertation on American literature, heavily influenced by various theoretical perspectives. Concurrently, I worked on some Australian writers and eventually accepted a position with Antipodes . Australian literature is a significant area for me, but I would not say it is my speciality; most of my current teaching is in the modern novel and in theory, and is equally divided between British and American. The focus of most of my recent scholarship has been in theory and criticism. I continued to take a strong role in Australian studies, though, and my interest in such an apparently "peripheral" area does, I think, say a lot about me and my values as an academic, as well as my high esteem for Australian writers and texts. We are back to the issue of eclectic postcolonialism here.

What is your ethnic background?

1/4 (Russian-Ukrainian) Jewish, 1/4 (Polish) Jewish, 3/16 German, 1/16 French, 1/8 Norwegian, 1/16 Scottish, 1/32 Scotch-Irish (Ulster Protestant) 1/32 English.....

What is your national identification?


What is your religion?


Where did you do your undergraduate work?

The answer: I matriculated at Wesleyan University but transferred from there to Columbia University (Columbia College). I got my baccalaureate degree from Columbia, but I identify as an alumnus of both institutions

Why did you leave Wesleyan?

I transferred to Columbia for family reasons, but very much valued my time at Wesleyan. Much of the reading I did at the Olin library has found its way into my books, particularly Theory After Theory (Broadview, 2010). I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Professor David Titus who was very kind to me. My brother Daniel graduated from Wesleyan in 2002 and I was back on campus for the ceremony. Andrew Meier, who I believe is class of 1985, is my current colleague at Eugene Lang College, the New School.

Can you help with international collaborations between the New School and universities worldwide?

See above answer with respect to hiring at the New School; one is best advised to approach the relevant program chair directly

What are approved equivalents of 'Commitment' in other languages?