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Corey Hickner-Johnson

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Curriculum Vitae:

Research Interests

20-21st-century Anglophone Literature, Intersectional Feminist Cultural Studies, Critical Disability Studies, Affect and Feminist Politics of Emotion, Public Scholarship, and Culturally Responsive Teaching

I am a doctoral candidate in English and a certificate holder in Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies. My dissertation is titled Beyond The Attic: Mental Disability, Neurodiversity, and Intersectional Contemporary Women’s Writing. I examine how contemporary women’s writing from multiple standpoints and identifications reframes outdated understandings of mental disability in raced, classed, gendered, and (dis)abled experiences. My move away from “madness” and towards “mental disability” reflects my focus on how social logics and medical-industrial systems produce mental disability. I argue for literary study as a way to better understand mental disability as a lived experience. I push beyond Gilbert and Gubar’s “madwoman in the attic” archetypes, reading Claudia Rankine’s poetry, Joyce Carol Oates’s and Dorothy Allison’s novels, and Amy Bloom and Esmé Weijun Wang’s short stories in order to consider race, class, and sexuality across a range of feminine and nonbinary experiences with mental disability in the contemporary era. Beyond The Attic is the first monograph-length project to consider madness through an intersectional feminist disability studies framework.

My other research puts intersectional feminist cultural studies, critical disability studies, queer of color critique, and literary studies into conversation. In my peer-reviewed article in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, I consider Sandra Cisneros’s experience as a Latina writer in the white space of the writer’s workshop through an analysis of affect in The Program Era. I draw from José Esteban Muñoz’s theorization of “Feeling Brown” in order to show how Cisneros articulates her own mode of hope, or esperanza, through The House on Mango Street. I have also published a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of International Women’s Studies on Hmong Story cloths and interpretation. In this article, I examine, a digital museum, while explaining how Western interpretive frames as applied to the story cloths damage meaning-making. I argue that the story cloths are not interpretable from Western perspectives and for the value of upholding uninterpretability when considering cultural work from cross-cultural frames of reference. I have also published a peer-reviewed web text on the importance of recovering feminine oral traditions. The Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies and Feminist Teacher have published my book reviews, and my creative work has been published in Feminist Studies. In addition to my academic scholarship, I have remained an active writer in the public sphere, publishing several opinion pieces in local newspapers on anti-racist rhetorics and feminist values.

I am a Ballard Seashore Fellow, a Jane A. Weiss and Prairie Lights Scholar, an Obermann Fellow, and a recipient of an Outstanding Teaching Award and the National Lydia Maria Child Society Award for Social Justice.

Hand-in-hand with my scholarship, I enjoy teaching and mentoring students. I have designed courses such as “Intersectionality and Literature,” “Feminist Spectators,” “Literary Misfits: Disability and Difference in Literature,” and “Looking for America,” as well as generalist courses including “Speaking and Reading,” and “Rhetoric.” I have also worked at the UIowa Speaking Center where I instructed undergraduate students, graduate students, and visiting scholars with English language concerns and rhetorical organization.

Before coming to the University of Iowa, I was a middle school language arts teacher for six years. In that setting, I was trained in culturally responsive teaching from The National Urban Alliance, and I have carried that work into the college classroom. I earned my MA in English from the University of Saint Thomas in 2012 and my BA in English and Education from the College of Saint Benedict in 2007.

You can learn more about me on my website at