John Wilson Foster was educated at Queen's University Belfast (B.A., M.A.) where he read zoology, history, social anthropology, English and philosophy. His M.A. was in aesthetics under the supervision of the philosopher W.B. Gallie and the critic and poet Philip Hobsbaum. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Oregon in the United States where he obtained his doctorate in English while teaching as a part-time instructor. His teaching and research career was spent at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2001 he was the National University of Ireland Professor at NUI Maynooth. In 2004-05 he was Leverhulme Visiting Professor to the UK (University of Ulster) and has been Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto and NUI Galway.