I was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1946, and emigrated with my family to the US in December 1956. After a brief sojourn in Wisconsin, we settled in St. Paul, Minnesota.
For high school and first two-and-a-half years of college, I studied in Catholic seminaries run by the Columban Fathers, an Irish-American missionary order of the Catholic Church. The high school was in Silver Creek, New York, and the college was in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I completed my college work at the College of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MInnesota), graduating with honors in December 1968, with majors in English and Classics.
I attended Cornell University from 1969 to 1973, specializing in medieval literature and medieval and early modern drama, and with a dissertation on liturgical elements in the structuring of Piers Plowman B, under the direction of Robert E. Kaske.
I joined the faculty of the English Department at the University of Washington in September 1973, and became a member of the faculty in Comparative Literature in 1975. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 1980, and to Professor in 2011. During my time as Associate Professor, I served as Director of Graduate Studies in English (1987-90), as Vice Chair (1991-92) and Chair (1992-93) of the UW's Faculty Senate, as Secretary of the Faculty (1994-99), as Co-Director of the Textual Studies Program (1997-2012), and as Director of Undergraduate Studies in English (2007-09). I was appointed Chair of Comparative LIterature in 2012.