Meet the Faculty
Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez
PhD, New York University, Comparative Literature
BA, Bard College at Simon's Rock (magna cum laude), English and Journalism
I attended P.S. 6 in Manhattan, and then Hunter College High School, through 10th grade, when I transferred to Simon's Rock. I earned a B.A. in English and Journalism from Simon's Rock in 1982, magna cum laude, writing my B.A. thesis on androgyny in the novels of Virginia Woolf, with Natalie Harper and Jamie Hutchinson as my advisors. I earned my M.A. in Comparative Literature at New York University in 1987, writing a master's thesis on the sublime in "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe and "Salammbo" by Gustave Flaubert. I was invited into the Comp. Lit. Ph.D program at NYU with a graduate fellowship that allowed me to begin teaching undergraduate courses in writing and comparative literature. I finished up in 1994, writing my dissertation, "Hybrid Encounters: Postcolonial Autobiographies of the Americas," while my first son took his naps. Every chapter of my dissertation was published in peer-reviewed journals or anthologies.
Before going back to grad school, I worked as a reporter at the Berkshire Courier in Great Barrington and the Winsted Citizen in Winsted, CT, then owned by the Berkshire Eagle. In New York City, I worked as a staff writer for Law Enforcement News, a national news magazine for law enforcement professionals published by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and then as managing editor of New York Business Speaks, the magazine published by the New York Chamber of Commerce. While working on my Masters, I worked at the Institute of International Education as assistant editor of the Fulbright newsletter. I also worked for nine years, between 2002 and 2011, as a Lecturer in Humanities in the Project Renaissance Program at the University at Albany, SUNY.
Areas of Interest:
My training is in Comparative Literature, specializing in literature by women from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. I also teach works by Asian and North American women, and I have been most interested in testimonials and political autobiographies. I have been drawn to the study of privilege and oppression as represented in autobiographical literature and novels, as well as personal narratives that illustrate successful resistance to human rights violations of many kinds. My new course "Human Rights, Activism and the Arts," co-taught as a B.A. Seminar with Karen Beaumont in Spring 2012, is representative of how my work in literature has migrated towards political activism in recent years. I have also worked as a journalist, and have taught journalism and media studies at Simon's Rock since 1994. I am interested in citizen journalism using new media tools; that is, giving students the skills and resources they need to become active, informed producers of media across a variety of delivery platforms (blogs, podcasts and radio, video and vlogs, print).
Research Interests/Professional Service:
I am increasingly concerned about the impact of global climate change and development practices on women and communities, especially indigenous and poor communities in the global South, and I am constantly engaged in looking for ways to bring women's voices from these marginalized communities into the public eye. This focus has brought my on-going interests in literature and media studies together, since today so much dialogic communication occurs online, through film, still images, audio and text. As part of my lifelong interest in issues of privilege and oppression, I see part of my work in the academy as raising awareness among my students about the way people in other parts of the world live, through the windows provided by their literature or other media, along with advocating actively, primarily through my blog, Transition Times, for increased civic engagement among the privileged on behalf of those who may not have the same access and tools to advocate for themselves. Looking ahead, I see myself as increasingly involved with issues of human rights and environmental justice, whether through literature, the media, or the arts in general. I serve on the College's Sustainability Committee, which is working to raise awareness on campus about issues of climate change and sustainable technology. I also have been working on creating a stronger culture and structure for student civic engagement at Simon's Rock, hoping to build many productive connections for our students with the many excellent organizations, schools and businesses in the Berkshire region. As part of this effort, I started a new Citizen Journalism Project in Spring 2012, working with WBCR-LP in Great Barrington to train students from Simon's Rock and Monument Mountain Regional High School to produce, host and engineer their own radio news shows. I believe that the more students can get out and put their skills and talents to work in real-life situations, the more committed to and excited by their education they will be.
I have published many articles and given many professional talks on women's literature from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the nexus between literature and political activism. In 2004 I published my first anthology, Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean, which collected established and emerging women's voices from this region, writing about political resistance and survival. Contributors included Edwidge Danticat (Haiti), Julia Alvarez (Dominican Republic), Gloria Anzaldua (Chicana), Marjorie Agosin (Chile), Alicia Partnoy (Argentina), Ruth Behar (Cuba), and Margaret Randall (North American). Published by South End Press, Women Writing Resistance has sold widely across the country, and is in its second edition now. In 2011, I published my second anthology, African Women Writing Resistance, co-edited with Anne Serafin and two Simon's Rock alums, Omotayo Jolaosho and Pauline Dongala. African Women Writing Resistance was published by the University of Wisconsin Press, with simultaneous publication by Pambazuka Press in the United Kingdom, for world distribution. It too includes both famous writer-activists like Wangari Maathai and Nawal El Saadawi, as well as many emerging women writers from more than 16 African countries. Both books have generated considerable interest at the various conferences and campuses at which I have participated in panels and roundtables.
- Glover Foundation Grant, 2002
- Bard College at Simon’s Rock Faculty Development Grants
For ten years from 2001 to 2011, I organized major annual conferences in honor of International Women's Day on the campus of Bard College at Simon's Rock. These conferences brought in outstanding speakers to share their expertise on a variety of topics, including politics, education, economics, the arts, the sciences and human rights. Notable speakers included writer and activist Frances Moore Lappe, who wrote "Diet for a Small Planet" and many other important books on the politics of industrial agriculture and the importance of participatory democracy; biologist and science writer Sandra Steingraber, who was the first to perceive the dangers of hydro-fracking in upstate New York; Maxine Kunin, former governor of Vermont; psychologist Carol Gilligan; Joanne Creighton, the President of Mt Holyoke College; and so many more. These conferences have been the site of many productive collaborations among Simon's Rock faculty, students and members of the larger Berkshire Community. They have received the financial support of many local businesses, organizations and individuals, notably the John A. Sellon Charitable Trust, the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Berkshire Women for Women Worldwide and the Women's Interfaith Institute of the Berkshires. In 2011, I started a new initiative, the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, a month-long, county-wide Festival celebrating the talents of local and regional women writers, of all ages and walks of life, during the month of March, Women's History Month. These festivals have received tremendous buy-in from participants, venues, hosts and donors, once again contributing to my larger goal of using my own abilities and access to create new platforms for others to share their talents, network and grow. The Festival is the work of a committee of dedicated women from Simon's Rock and the Berkshire Community; see our website, http://berkshirewomenwriters.org, for more information.