SEA Scholar of the Month, October 2021: Deirdre Cooper Owens
How did you become interested in studying early American literature?
I have always been interested in the study of early America since I was an elementary student. I was specifically led to early African American history by my mother’s great interest in the field. As a child, my parents purchased Ebony Magazine’s three-volume set, Pictorial History of Black America. I was entranced.
Who is your favorite early American writer, or what is your favorite early American text, and why?
I return to Harriet Jacobs’ memoir, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl time and time again because of the gut-wrenching beauty of her prose about such an ugly institution.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a monograph about Harriet Tubman as a disabled freedom-fighting genius.
What is something you are reading right now (EAL related or otherwise) that inspires you, either personally or professionally?
I am currently reading Jennifer L. Morgan’s Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic and like most of Professor Morgan’s scholarship, I am inspired to trust what the enslaved shared with us even discreetly. It is a wonderfully persuasive and moving text.
Is there a scholar in the field who inspires you, and why?
Yes, Sasha Turner has accomplished so much in her professional life. Her brilliance is as inspiring as her writing. Whenever I read any of her writings, including her monograph Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica, I am deeply impressed by her expansive her mind is.
Deirdre Cooper Owens is The Charles & Linda Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine and Director of the Humanities in Medicine Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is also the Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia.