Joel Brattin's Scholarship Ranges From London Fog to Purple Haze


What do Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and rock guitarist Jimi Hendix have in common? Arguably, each is among the greatest artists of all time in his respective field. And both have been consuming passions for Joel J. Brattin, professor of literature at WPI. Brattin recently spoke about the disparate foci for his scholarship in a podcast produced by the Alumni Office at the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English literature; he also holds a PhD in English from Stanford University.

Brattin has been studying Dickens’s life and fiction for 30 years. He has published a range of articles and reviews treating Dickens in such journals as The Dickensian, Dickens Quarterly, and Dickens Studies Annual, and has contributed articles to the Oxford Companion to Dickens. He has served as trustee, secretary/treasurer, vice president, and president of the Dickens Society and is curator for the Robert Fellman Dickens Collection at WPI, considered one of the finest such archives in New England.

For nearly as long, he has been fascinated by the influential guitarist who astounded fans with his virtuosity and creativity. He has written extensively about Hendrix’s work and life, and has become known as one of the leading scholars on this American original. Asked to compare these artists from different centuries, Brattin once said, "They both were influential and energetic with a kind of restless, relentless creativity. Dickens was always working, and Hendrix was the same way. They are fascinating characters as well as great artists."

Listen to the University of Michigan podcast.