Joanna Brooks is chair and associate professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University. Recently, Joanna co-organized the “Our Voices, Our Visions” Mormon women’s literary tour with Holly Welker and writes dynamic creative nonfiction in addition to publishing academically. She writes a regular column, “Ask Mormon Girl,” at Mormon Matters.
BA with Honors, English, BYU 1993
Ph.D., English, UCLA, 1999
What are your area (s) of expertise/specialization?
My fields of expertise include American Studies, American literature, religion, and race. Most of my published scholarship focuses on American culture before 1800.
What are you currently studying, or what are some of your current projects?
I’m just finishing up a big anthology entitled Transatlantic Feminisms in the Age of Revolutions, which collects Anglophone protofeminist and feminist writings by women around the Atlantic world from the 17th through the early 19th centuries. My next big project uses Anglo-American ballads about the migration from England to the Americas as a resource for developing new insights into why so many poor English folks–my ancestors included–made the trip to the Americas. Our cherished “land of opportunity” narrative accounts only for the advertised attractions of North America. The conditions that pushed poor folks out including massive deforestation, environmental destruction, and social displacement are not yet a part of our story.
What has your experience been like as a woman in the academy?
I admire women who have used their power to create new spaces and opportunities for others to tell their stories. I admire great mentors and organizers who take risks in the service of a vision and have laid the foundations for their fields, like Richard Yarborough, one of my teachers at UCLA. I think of women like the American Indian writer and scholar Paula Gunn Allen, one of my teachers at UCLA, who never lost her sense of humor, and my colleague Ann Cvetkovich at Texas who has never lost her kindness and generosity. And since I am a department chair now, I increasingly look to the examples of women like Sidonie Smith at Michigan who have been intellectually alert, hopeful, and hardworking shapers of their institutions and the field.