Johansen, Ruthann Knechel 1942–

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JOHANSEN, Ruthann Knechel 1942–

PERSONAL: Born 1942; married, husband's name Bob; children: Erik, Sonia. Education: Manchester College, B.S.; Columbia University Teachers College, M.A.; Drew University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Home—51385 Hunting Ridge Trail, Granger, IN 46530. Office—104 O'Shaughnessy, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, visiting lecturer in English, 1981–84; Stockton State College, Pomona, NJ, assistant professor of American literature, 1985–86; Bethany Theological Seminary, Oak Brook, IL, member of adjunct faculty, 1992; University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, assistant professor, 1990–94, associate professor, 1995–99, professional specialist and associate director, College of Arts and Letters core course, 1999. Visiting scholar, Harvard Divinity School, 1992–93; participant in Mac-Arthur Foundation summer seminar on peace studies, 1988, and Ford Foundation summer seminar on cultural diversity, 1991.

AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Young Women of America award, 1973; Evelyn Ortner Prize, Drew University, 1981; research grant, Stockton State College, 1985; Elizabeth Agee prize, 1992, for The Narrative Secret of Flannerty O'Connor: The Trickster as Interpreter; Kroc Institute fellow, 1993; grant from Lilly Foundation, 1998; Kaneb Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, University of Notre Dame, 1999.

WRITINGS:

Coming Together: Male and Female in a Renamed Garden, Brethren Press (Elgin, IL), 1977.

The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor: The Trickster as Interpreter, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1994.

Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark: Reconstructing Life after Brain Injury, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.

Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Flannery O'Connor Bulletin, Fellowship, and Brethren Life and Thought.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Research on narrativity and selfhood.

SIDELIGHTS: Ruthann Knechel Johansen is a professor whose book The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor: The Trickster as Interpreter analyzes the artistic vision of novelist Flannery O'Connor. In Johansen's view, O'Connor's religious faith and her artistic viewpoint were inextricably linked. The author contends that they were also both closer to the viewpoint held by medieval scholars than by modern readers. In making her point, Johansen … relates O'Connor's writing to the narrative tradition of storytelling, which draws the listener into mythic realms. "Johansen's text is difficult and oftentimes reads as if it were written for O'Connor scholars," noted D. Coshnear in Choice. "However, she painstakingly defines her terms and her complex critical framework." Sarah Gordon, a contributor to Southern Humanities Review, noted: "Johansen's clear intent … is to explain how the strangeness and indeed the harshness of O'Connor's fiction may be understood in light of the author's firm Christianity and to suggest the presence of the numinous in her stories of the Southern backwoods." Gordon found that "Johansen is at her best in discussing biblical sources and linguistic conventions."

Johansen's personal life is the subject of Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark: Reconstructing Life after Brain Injury. When the author's son Erik was fifteen years old, he was in an automobile accident that caused him to suffer severe brain injury and coma. Uncertain as to whether he would live or die, Johansen and her husband struggled to communicate with their child and with the medical team around him. When he did begin to regain consciousness, Erik had no memory of himself or of how to perform the basic activities of daily living. Johansen reflects on the variety of forces that combined to help bring her son back from his coma. She recounts the initial trauma, the early stages of recovery and rehabilitation, and finally, the long process of readjusting to life in a permanently altered state. Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark is "a deeply moving story of a struggle to selfhood," according to Jodith Janes in Library Journal. The book speaks honestly of the monumental difficulties involved in Erik's recovery, including strain on family bonds, which led to his eventually being placed in a rehabilitation home. Such decisions are never easy, and the author's "candor is rare enough to distinguish this book from similar accounts of families dealing with stricken children," stated William Beatty in Booklist. Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark goes beyond personal memoir, in Beatty's opinion; through the story of her own family, Johansen "pursues questions of justice, compassion, and responsibility."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Johansen, Ruthann Knechel, Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark: Reconstructing Life after Brain Injury, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2000.

PERIODICALS

American Literature, December, 1994, review of The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor: The Trickster as Interpreter, pp. 881-882.

Booklist, March 15, 2002, William Beatty, review of Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark: Reconstructing Life after Brain Injury, p. 1192.

Choice, January, 1995, review of The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor, p. 781.

Contemporary Sociology, July, 2003, Michele S. Smith, review of Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark, p. 520.

Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Jodith Janes, review of Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark, p. 102.

Mississippi Quarterly, winter, 1995, David J. Knauer, review of The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor, p. 127.

Southern Humanities Review, winter, 1997, review of The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor, p. 77.

Southern Literary Journal, spring, 1996, Anne Rowe, review of The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor, p. 121.

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