Professor James Phelan

Professor James Phelan

Professor James Phelan

Ohio State University, USA


Professor James Phelan is a literary scholar who is a central figure in the field of narrative theory. He is one of the most cited and influential scholars in the field.

Phelan has written numerous seminal books and articles on narrative theory, and he has received several academic awards. He is a sought-after visiting professor and speaker.

He is considered a central representative of a rhetorical approach to narrative, an approach that originated in the so-called Chicago School of literary criticism. Perhaps the most prominent proponent of this approach was Wayne C. Booth, author of the seminal work The Rhetoric of Fiction. Phelan studied with Booth as a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Phelan’s most influential book is Living to Tell about It: A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration (2005).

Phelan is a key figure in modern narratology. He is the editor of the influential journal Narrative and is on the core faculty of Project Narrative at Ohio State University, a major centre for narrative research that brings together the best concentration of academic expertise in narrative studies in North America. Project Narrative has made Columbus, Ohio one of the most dynamic and exciting places in the world for narrative theory.

Phelan is involved in a number of joint research projects with Aarhus University scholars, for example at the Centre for Fictionality Studies, which is funded by an AU IDEAS pilot centre grant. He has also taught narratology at Aarhus University’s international Summer School for a number of years. He will also participate in an international PhD course in narratology to be offered at Aarhus University starting in 2013. The course is organised by Stefan Iversen. In the spring of 2012, he was a visiting professor at the Department of Aesthetics and Communication at Aarhus University. Several researchers from the department have also participated in Project Narrative at The Ohio State University.


Professor, Department of English, Ohio State University


Education and appointments

2012 -             Visiting Professor, Aarhus University

2008 -            Distinguished University Professor of English, Ohio State University

2004 -            Humanities Distinguished Professor, Ohio State University

1989 - 2004            Professor, Ohio State University

1994 - 2002            Chair, Department of English, Ohio State University

1983 - 1989            Associate Professor, Ohio State University

1977 - 1983            Assistant Professor, Ohio State University

1977            PhD, English Language and Literature, University of Chicago

1973            MA, English Language and Literature, University of Chicago

1972            BA, English Literature, Boston College

Selected honorary titles

2008            Distinguished University Professor, Ohio State University

2007            Perkins Prize, Society for the Study of Narrative Literature, for best book
                  in narrative studies in 2005 (Living to Tell about lt)

2007            Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, Ohio State University

2007            Arts and Sciences Research Award for Distinguished Service

2004            Distinguished Scholar Award, Ohio State University

1999            NEH Focus Grant, “Teaching Multicultural American Literature”

1993            Best New Journal Award given by The Council of Editors of Learned Journals to Narrative