Cecilia Konchar Farr, author of The Ulysses Delusion and Reading Oprah, is Professor of English and Women's Studies, Chair of English and a Carondelet Scholar in the Women's College at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
First the autobiographical.
I come from a family of eight children, a raucous, witty bunch of Serbian-Slovakian Konchars who grew up in Western Pennsylvania on 15 acres of wooded land with a pond and a rotating assortment of animals. Our dad, a WWII vet, was a belly gunner in a B17 "Flying Fortress" over Europe. When he came home, he owned a skating rink, then was trucker, a steel worker, and an operating engineer, sometimes tearing down the mills he had worked in. Our mom was mostly at home, where she nurtured, encouraged and corralled us, making sure we went to church, said our prayers, and took care of one another. Perhaps most importantly, she read to us. And she taught us to be readers.
I caught the tail end of the baby boom, so my schools were overcrowded and understaffed, but I loved them anyway. I learned to be adventurous from Mrs. Smith, to be curious from Mr. Logan, to be creative from Ms. Yovanovich and Mr. Boyles, and to sing and play my heart out on the stage at Butler High. After a few years at Slippery Rock State College I became the professional writer I had wanted to be since my mom read me my first book. I worked for newspapers in the Monongahela Valley, then went on to graduate school to be a professor. Now I teach, read, and write about novels. I love my work, especially my students and colleagues, but the best benefit of it all might be the travel.
Every January (J-Term at our Midwestern schools) I'm off on a literary adventure: "The Lost Generation" or "Modernist Moments" (my favorites!) in Paris, London, Madrid, or Berlin; "The Grand Tour" in Paris, Rome, Florence and Nice; "Harry Potter" in London, Oxford and Edinburgh; I've even taught in Hawaii and Japan, New York City and (soon!) Greece. This, I could talk all day about. But if you want to know more, check out the photo galleries under the Teaching tab.
When I'm not traveling I live in St. Paul's West Seventh neighborhood amid Eastern European churches and Italian restaurants. I am an occasional Minnesota Roller Girl Debu-Taunt, a biker and runner, and Zumba aficionado. I have two adult children, Daley and Tanner, and a long-time partner (33 years's worth!), a bicyclist and alternate transportation advocate who everyone calls Cubs.
And now for the official academic version of my life, in appropriately distanced third person:
Cecilia Konchar Farr is Chair of English, Carondelet Scholar, and Professor of English and Women’s Studies in the Women’s College at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. An active scholar, her most recent publication is The Ulysses Delusion: Rethinking Standards of Literary Merit (Palgrave Macmillan 2016), which continues her engagement with novels and what they mean to avid readers, research she began with Reading Oprah: How Oprah's Book Club Changed the Way America Reads (SUNY 2004).
With a B.A. from Slippery Rock State College (now University) in Pennsylvania (1982) and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University (1990), Professor Konchar Farr traces a preoccupation with the university’s obligation toward the public good to her working class roots and to the land grant rhetoric that permeated those institutions; that obligation continues to be foundational to her understanding of what it means to be a professor. A member and former chair of many elected faculty committees, co-chair of Faculty Council, chair of the Faculty Governance Work Group, a Faculty Associate in Academic Affairs, and twice Director of the Core Curriculum, she defines the role of professor broadly, and locates in it an irrefutable responsibility for shared governance.
Professor Konchar Farr is also an academic activist, a feminist critic who believes that justice and education are intimately related and that good teaching is, in bell hooks’ words, "teaching to transgress” (for more, click on TEACHING above). A firm believer in the Catholic university and its commitment to intellectual inquiry and social justice, she is also a longtime AAUP member—serving on the National Council from 2008-2012, as State Executive Committee Chair from 2005-2007, and as a leader of her local St. Kate’s chapter since 1998. In her AAUP work, she has taken particular interest in issues of academic freedom at religious institutions, perhaps a remnant of her brief tenure as an assistant professor at Brigham Young University (1990-94).
That should do for now. You should know, though, that the whole point of having a web page, for me, is connecting with more people about books. So stop by my blog and join the conversation. Oh, and my friends call me Ceil.