Scholar connects political action, literature

Mark Canuel

“The exciting aspect of scholarship is the thrill of discovering works,” says Mark Canuel. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.


There was a time when Mark Canuel wanted to go to law school.

“After speaking to people who were in law school, and who had gone into careers after law school, I realized that what they were doing was not what I wanted to be doing, ” Canuel says.

Instead, he became a scholar of literature and professor of English. “What I was most interested in was political and legal theory, as they connected to the history of literature and culture.”

The author of four books and editor of an anthology of essays, Canuel studies the connection between political action and literature in the British Romantic era.

“Believe it or not, I think that Jane Austen has some say about those issues,” he says.

Canuel’s next book will look at the way Romantic writers imagined politics during that era.

“The exciting aspect of scholarship is the thrill of discovering works,” he says.

In addition to his specialty, Canuel teaches classes on novels, Romantic aesthetics and survey courses in British literature. Next fall he’ll teach a course on Romanticism and the Gothic.

One of the biggest pleasures of teaching is the element of surprise, Canuel says.

“My expectations of the students’ response to a text don’t always align with their actual reaction,” he says. “It’s one of the things that is a constant joy.”

While he enjoys sharing research in his classes, many times it’s the students who make him see things in new ways.

“That’s the really special thing about UIC,” he says. “We have all kinds of students who enrich the university.”

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