John Knott shares his essays, which present a story of getting to know a place intimately and learning to deal with challenges from the human and natural worlds, from developers and county officials to windstorms, a hatch of seventeen-year cicadas, flying squirrels in the attic, and a bullfrog that takes up residence for the winter in the basement floor drain.
About the Author
John R. Knott, Jr., was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 9, 1937, the son of John R. Knott and Wilma Henshaw Knott. He graduated from Central High School in 1955 and did his undergraduate work at Yale University, graduating magna cum laude with high honors in English in 1959. In 1959-60 he held a Carnegie Fellowship at Yale, taking one graduate course and teaching undergraduate English. During that year he married Anne Percy Knott of Memphis. He went to Harvard University for his graduate work with a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1960-61), earning a Ph.D. in English in 1965 after serving as a Teaching Fellow in General Education and in English. He remained at Harvard as an Instructor in English for two years before joining the Department of English of the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor in 1967. By that time he and his wife Anne had four children: Catherine Henshaw Knott, Ellen Dent Knott, Walker Percy Knott, and Anne Minor Knott.
At Michigan John Knott was promoted to Associate Professor in 1971 and Professor in 1976. He specialized in English Renaissance literature for much of his career, teaching a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses, including Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, and the Puritan imagination. He twice received recognition for his teaching in the form of LSA Excellence in Education awards. He published numerous articles and chapters and three scholarly books on Renaissance literature: Milton’s Pastoral Vision (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971); The Sword of the Spirit (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), with the help of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities; and Discourses of Martyrdom in English Literature: 1563-1694 (Cambridge University Press, 1993), with the help of a Michigan Humanities Award. In the 1990’s his teaching and research interests gradually shifted to literature and the environment. He published a critical book that grew out of a course he developed in the literature of the American wilderness, Imagining Wild America (Univ. of Michigan Press, 2001) and subsequently Imagining the Forest: Narratives of the Upper Midwest (University of Michigan Press, 2012). He has edited or co-edited several collections dealing with the environment, including The Huron River: Voices from the Watershed (Univ. of Michigan Press, 2000) and Michigan: Our Land, Our Water Our Heritage (Univ. of Michigan Press, 2008, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.
John Knott’s service at Michigan has included Assoc. Dean (1977-80) and Acting Dean (1980-81) of LSA; Chair of the Department of English (1982-87); Interim Director of the Humanities Institute (1987-88); and Interim Director of the Program in the Environment (2001-2). As chair of English he started the MFA program in creative writing. He served on the planning committee for the Institute for the Humanities and acted as interim director during its startup year. Several years before his retirement from the faculty in 2006 he chaired the planning and implementation committees that established the joint LSA/SNRE Program in the Environment, which replaced the SNRE undergraduate program, and directed the program for its first year and a half.