Born in Michigan in 1956, I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1978, earning my PhD at Stanford University in 1985. I have enjoyed teaching British literature at WPI since 1990. I like the intelligence and good work ethic of WPI students; I especially enjoy the opportunity to meet and interact with students in small groups and on an individual basis. The bulk of my scholarly work falls into three principal areas. I work on the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870), on textual scholarship (especially textual editing and manuscript work), and on the American guitarist and composer Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970). I have been studying (and enjoying) Charles Dickens's life and fiction for 30 years; Dickens was the subject of my PhD dissertation at Stanford University and of my first book as well. I have published a range of articles and reviews treating Dickens in such journals as The Dickensian, Dickens Quarterly, and Dickens Studies Annual, and have contributed articles to the Oxford Companion to Dickens. I have served as trustee, secretary/treasurer, vice president, and president of the Dickens Society. My textual scholarship has primarily focused in two areas: textual editing and manuscript analysis. I have established the text of Dickens's last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend, and helped to establish the text of key works by the most influential 19th-century writer of nonfiction prose, Thomas Carlyle, for the California Carlyle edition. I have worked with the literary manuscripts of many important writers, especially Dickens; close analysis of the complex tangle of interlineations and deletions in his manuscripts reveals a great deal about his artistic intentions and achievements.
Professional Highlights & Honors
In this front-page article, the Telegram & Gazette interviewed and photographed English Professor and internationally renowned Hendrix expert Joel Brattin. “When Hendrix’s guitar sings ‘bombs bursting in air,’ you hear not only the bombs, but you hear the cries of agony of the people on the ground who are experiencing those bombs,” Brattin told the T&G. “There’s a strong amount of political content, even if it’s nonverbal.”
Worcester News Tonight stopped by WPI to talk with Joel Brattin, professor of English, and Arthur Carlson, assistant director of archives, about the Dan and Alice Ryan Dickens collection, which will be included in the Gordon Library's Fellman Collection of Dickens artifacts.