Starting college in Ohio, Professor Towner never dreamed he’d major in English, let alone obtain a Ph.D. and become a professor. But once he discovered the joy of literature, his career was set. James Joyce’s Dubliners, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury and Galway Kinnell’s The Book of Nightmares “were hugely influential to me at the time,” he recalls.
Perhaps because of his earlier experience, Professor Towner understands that some students may not be ready to embrace literature. “Sometimes as faculty, we overestimate our impact on students. It has a huge amount to do with where they are in their lives,” he says. “What makes teaching hard and fun at the same time is that you really have to teach not only to students where they are at the moment but to whom they might be in the future.”
To engage students in his American and modern literature courses, Professor Towner tries to show them how literature can “speak to the alive part of us.”
Besides literature, he enjoys kayaking, hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.