John Cronin graduated with a B.A. (first class honours, English and History) at University College, Cork and followed this with a B.A. (English) of the University of London and an M.A. (English) of the National University of Ireland. His first lecturing post was in the department of English at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. From there, he came to the Department of English at Queen’s University Belfast in 1962 where he was successively Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor and Head of Department. He completed his Ph.D at Queen’s on the Fiction and Journalism of the Irish writer, Gerald Griffin, (1803-1840) in 1971.
He was responsible for initiating courses in Anglo-Irish writing at Queen’s and was the first to set up a successful M.A. course in this area of study. He taught widely across the entire English syllabus, while developing his special research interests in Anglo-Irish literature and literature in the Irish language. In addition to courses on Irish writing in the English language, he also established an undergraduate course on bilingual Irish writing. He has published widely in Irish, American and Canadian journals on Irish fiction from the early nineteenth century to the present day. His books include Somerville and Ross (in the Bucknell “Irish Writers” series); Gerald Griffin, 1803-1840: A Critical Biography (Cambridge University Press); The Anglo-Irish novel, volume 1, The Nineteenth Century and volume 2, 1900-1940, (Belfast, Appletree Press). He has edited Selected Plays of St. John Ervine (No.5 in the “Irish Drama Selections” series, Colin Smythe and the Catholic University of America Press) and is general editor of a series of eight Classic Irish Novels of the Nineteenth Century (Belfast, Appletree Press). In addition to his academic activities, Professor Cronin has worked extensively on arts programmes for BBC Northern Ireland and BBC World Service and was for many years a member of the Anglo-Irish Literature Committee of the Royal Irish Academy. He has recently contributed a number of entries to the New Dictionary of National Biography.