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John J. Burke Jr. is professor English at the University of Alabama and is currently serving as director of undergraduate studies in the English department.  His principal job as director of undergraduate studies is to look after the wellbeing of approximately 500 majors who call the English Department their home.  This puts him in charge of advising and other matters that concern English majors.  He necessarily also plays an important intermediary role between the students and the Department’s faculty and instructors at the 200-level and higher.

In his role as a literary scholar John pursues a wide range of interests in literary issues.  Those interests have extended all the way from Chaucer all the way up through Flannery O’Connor and Iris Murdoch.  His specialty, since his days as a graduate student at UCLA, has been in the literature of the Restoration and 18th century (1660-1785).  For an extended period of time, his research and publications focused on writers such as Samuel Johnson and James Boswell and on the complicated issues involved in assessing the merit and worth in literary biographies.

Over the past decade or so, however, his major interests have shifted towards the idea of epic and its influence on the literature of the Restoration and Eighteenth Century.   At first this resulted in a return to his early interest in Henry Fielding and his proposal that the new species of writing being created during the 18th century be called “comic epic-poems in prose.”  That brought him to a major conference on Henry Fielding’s work in London in April of 2007 and the later publication of the paper he read there, “Fielding’s Epic Combat with Milton in Tom Jones.”

More recently, he has expanded that interest into the English Restoration and the figures of John Dryden and John Milton.  This has brought him face-to-face with Dryden’s highly esteemed translation of Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid (1697).  He is particularly interested in the personal factors that drew Dryden so powerfully to Virgil’s poem.  This, it turns out, was necessarily conditioned by Dryden’s more complicated reaction to what may well be the great single poem in the English language, Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost , first published in 1667.  He will be examining these relationships in papers to be given at the University of Hawaii in January 2012 and at Nanyang University in Singapore in June 2012.

Books Edited

The Unknown Samuel Johnson. With Donald Kay. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1983.

Signs and Symbols in Chaucer's Poetry. With John P. Hermann. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1981.

Articles and Essays

                 “Facing the Future with the Shield of Aeneas: Dryden, Virgil, and the Testing of His Catholic Faith in the 1690s,” Religion in the Age of the Enlightenment 3 (New York: 
                 AMS Press, 2012), 85-105.

                 (Reflections on the Origins of Postmodern Deconstruction in Eighteenth-century Classical Studies): Richard Bentley: Poetry and Enlightenment by Kristine Louise 
                 Haugen, Age of Johnson 22 (New York: AMS Press, 2012), 337-44.

                 “When Things Go Wrong, Terribly Wrong: Milton, Dryden, and the Politics of a  Providential University,” An Expanding Universe: The Project of Eighteenth-Century 
, ed. Cedric Reverand Jr. and Kevin L. Cope (New York: AMS  Press, forthcoming),

                 “Fielding’s Epic Combat with Milton in Tom Jones,” Henry Fielding in Our Time: Tercentenary Essays, ed. J. A. Downie (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge Scholars    
                  Publishing, 2008), pp. 51-64.

                “Reconfiguring the Idea of 18th-Century Literature in a New Epoch: Moving from the Augustan to the Menippean,” Eighteenth-Century Life, 31.2 (2007), 83-95.

               “The Romantic Window and the Postmodern Mirror: the Medieval Worlds of Sir Walter Scott and Umberto Eco,” reprinted online by Gale Publishing, 2005.

              “Jonathan Swift’s Crimes Against Humanity: Truth or Fiction?” 1650-1850 (2004), 205-16.

"Johnson as Zeus, Boswell as DanaĆ«: Que(e)r(y)ing Sex and Gender Roles in Boswell's Life of Johnson." 1650–1850 7 (2002): 375–85.

"The Homoerotic Subtext in Scott's The Fortunes of Nigel: The Question of Evidence." Clio 29 (2000): 295–314.

"Boswell and the Text of Johnson's Logia." Age of Johnson 9 (1998): 1–22.

"The Romantic Window and the Postmodern Mirror: The Medieval Worlds of Sir Walter Scott and Umberto Eco." Scott in Carnival. Ed. J. H. Alexander and David Hewitt. Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1993. 556–68.

"Filling in the Blanks of Shakespeare's Biography." South Atlantic Review 60 (September 1995): 101–12.

"Talk, Dialogue, Conversation and Other Kinds of Speech Acts in Boswell's Life of Johnson." Compendious Conversations: Methods of Dialogue in the Enlightenment. Ed. Kevin Cope. New York: Lang, 1992. 65–79.

"James Boswell." English Prose Writers, 1660–1800. Second Series, Vol. 104. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. 3–28. Rpt. in CDLB (1992).

"The Originality of Boswell's Version of Johnson's Quarrel with Lord Chesterfield." New Light on Boswell. Ed. Greg Clingham. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. 143–61.

"Crime and Punishment in 1777." Executions and the British Experience. Ed. William B. Thesing. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990. 59–75.

"When the Falklands First Demanded an Historian: Johnson, Junius, and the Making of History in 1771." The Age of Johnson 2 (1988): 293–312.

"Canonizing Iris Murdoch." Studies in the Novel 19 (1987): 486–94.

"The Documentary Value of Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides." Fresh Reflections on Samuel Johnson. Ed. Prem Nath. Troy: Whitston, 1987. 348–371.

"But Boswell's Johnson Is Not Boswell's Johnson." Boswell's Life of Johnson: New Questions, New Answers. Ed. John Vance. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1985. 172–203.

"The Unknown Samuel Johnson." The Unknown Samuel Johnson. Ed. John Burke and Donald Kay. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1983. 3–16.

"Observing the Observer in Historical Fictions by DeFoe." Philological Quarterly 61 (1982): 131–32. Rpt. in Daniel DeFoe: Modern Critical Views. Ed. Harold Bloom. 169–83.

"Excellence in Biography: Rambler No. 60 and Johnson's Early Biographies." South Atlantic Bulletin 44 (May 1979): 14–34.

"Hume's 'History of England': Waking the Engish from a Dogmatic Slumber." Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 7 (1978): 235–50.

"Scott's Views on History in The Fortunes of Nigel." CLIO 8 (1978): 3–13.

"History Without History: Fielding's Theory of Fiction." A Provision of Human Nature: Essays on Fielding and Others in Honor of Miriam Austin Locke. Ed. Donald Kay. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1977. 45–63.


To Signs and Symbols in Chaucer's Poetry. With John P Hermann. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1981. 1–11.

Review articles

Rev. of Letters of Samuel Johnson, ed. Bruce Redford. South Atlantic Review 60 (May 1995): 153–60.

"(Self) Portraiture in Shakespeare Studies." South Atlantic Review 58 (November 1993): 117–22.

Encyclopedia Entries

"Samuel Johnson's The Rambler." Encyclopedia of the Essay. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997. 685–86.

"James Boswell" and "Samuel Johnson." Encyclopedia of Life Writing. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001. 123–25; 504–05.


In South Atlantic Review, Bulletin of Midwest Modern Language Association, The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Studies in the Novel, Albion, CLIO, Philological Quarterly, Iris Murdoch Newsletter.

Periodicals edited

The Iris Murdoch Newsletter, 1991–94.


In Iris Murdoch Newsletter