Dr. Jessica McCall
Be a DelVal Storyteller: Dr. Jessica McCall shares her story
I’ve never thought of myself as a “proper” English professor. I love trashy books and fanfiction and terrible movies and video games and happy endings. I love stories because they make me feel and think and question and I study stories because it turns out all the answers to life, the universe, and everything are already out there—they’re just scattered across all the stories since, well, forever. It doesn’t matter if it’s Shakespeare or Wonder Woman, both have something to tell you about truth. I get teary listening to Gandalf dispense wisdom in The Lord of the Rings because he’s right: being a hero isn’t only about grandiose gestures and big, brave moments. Being a hero is about being brave enough to be honest and doing what needs to be done even when I don’t want to, helping those who need to be helped, being patient with others, even when they don’t deserve it. And let’s not forget second breakfast, the most important meal of the day.
But while I’ve always loved stories, the rules of school got in the way of learning for me; sitting still, listening to lectures, and being told what to read all made me irritable and contrary (still does). Luckily, I also had amazing teachers who were brilliant and funny and understood how much I loved to learn despite not loving school. Learning is amazing. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a teacher. Learning makes you powerful, self-sufficient, capable. And the thing is, I’ve never not used something I learned even if it seemed worthless at the time.
Geology class? When I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time I wanted to go home, find that professor, and thank him. Algebra? Taught me logic and deductive reasoning. Music, my first love, is just telling stories without words. It also taught me how to work with others, how to listen to them, and that, yes, I could march the whole Indy 500 parade carrying a bass drum. So yeah, sometimes school is still boring, but sometimes it’s pretty okay too. And with great learning comes great awareness: just because something doesn’t seem exciting in the moment doesn’t make it worthless.
You never know what knowledge you’re going to need in life, and the more knowledge you have, the more stories you get to experience, and the more options there are. Life is like a choose-your-own-adventure story. I will never change the world, but I have changed my world. And if I can help anyone else learn that skill through superheroes or Shakespeare or even fanfiction then I’d say that’s an adventure worth having.
Education and Scholarly Interests:
Dr. Jessica McCall graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2011 after completing her dissertation on warrior women in Spenser, Shakespeare, and modern-day superheroes. She has published on a range of topics including graphic novels, feminism, gender studies, popular culture, Shakespeare, fanfiction and fan culture. Dr. McCall has taught Women’s Literature, Fanfiction Writing Workshop, Shakespeare, Young Adult Literature, Graphic Novels, Introduction to Literature and more. One of her favorite things to teach are honors courses ranging from Studio Ghibli to dystopian stories and co-teaching with her colleagues in the science departments.
Discover Dr. McCall's Multimedia Highlights:
- Video Presentation: One Man, One Bullet Mad Max Feminist Road
- “Bearable Weight: Faith, Bitch Planet and the Big Bodies of Big Women” presented via video at the Transitions 9 Conference, 2021
- “Jess and the Mansplainers: A band of college profs led by a superhero expert”
- “What Happens When My Expertise is Your Everyday Skill? Reading, Writing, and Meaning Making” (co-presented with Dr. Brian Lutz)
- Ph.D., University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Specialization: Shakespeare and Early Modern Studies; Minor: Composition and Rhetoric, Drama.
- M.A., University of Massachusetts
- B.A., English, with minors in Music and Creative Writing, Western Illinois University