Anna Barker, Wonder Woman

Meet Anna Barker! In addition to being one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever known, she is also my favorite professor at the University of Iowa. I took her Superheroes Unleashed honors seminar last fall, and this semester I’m enrolled in her Wonder Woman Unleashed course.
Her passion for the material she teaches is obvious – she bounds into class each afternoon, wearing her Captain America shirt or her Wonder Woman scarf, eager to endlessly discuss the assigned readings with us. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and ask her some questions about her numerous interests and projects, as well as her love of teaching!
I was somewhat surprised to learn that her love of superheroes is rather new – she didn’t grow up reading comic books! While watching superhero movies with her kids, she began to notice a connection between those movies and the Greek and Roman myths that she adores. She says, “Iron Man is just as cocky and irreverent as Achilles or Odysseus.” She later “felt compelled to put together a syllabus” for a class designed to teach students about the connections between myths and comic books.
I asked her why she thinks it’s important for students, particularly young women such as the readers of Her Campus, to study Wonder Woman comics. She says, “Teaching a class about Wonder Woman provides an excellent opportunity to find out more about the world of ancient female fighters, Amazons and goddesses. It also gives us a chance to look at the evolution of the women’s rights movement from 1941, when the character was created, through the women’s rights achievements of the 1960s and 70s, when Gloria Steinem herself wrote the introduction to a collection of her favorite Wonder Woman comics, to 2017, when Wonder Woman will appear on the silver screen in her full Amazon glory.”
Barker loves to spend time browsing the selection at Daydreams Comics, located at 21 S Dubuque Street and recommends Watchmen by Alan Moore as a graphic novel everyone should read.
But don’t think for a minute that her interest in stories begins and ends with comic books! She has taught courses in various departments, including English, Cinema & Comparative Literature, and Asian & Slavic languages. When asked about her Tolstoy and Dostoevsky class, she says, “Every year I teach approximately seven thousand pages of Russian literature and love infecting my students with admiration for these vast and timeless tomes.” I can confirm that statement – her enthusiasm is definitely infectious, and she always has something to say that makes us see a particular story in a new and unusual way.
One of her accomplishments includes annual public readings of novels that are often thought of as “too old, too long, and too boring for public consumption.” Her first project was a 2010 reading of Anna Karenina that lasted for thirty-four hours, while her most recent was Don Quixote in 2015.
If that sounds interesting to you, you can sign up to participate in her next project! Currently, she’s planning a reading of Crime and Punishment to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. The reading will coincide with this year’s upcoming Iowa City Book Festival, held each fall by the UNESCO City of Literature.
Or consider enrolling in one of her classes! Whether you take Wonder Woman Unleashed to fulfill the Values, Society, & Diversity Gen Ed requirement or Superheroes Unleashed as just an elective, you will definitely have fun and learn a lot. (And you will never fall asleep during lecture!) It’s hard not to love literature when you have as passionate and exuberant a teacher as Anna Barker. I mean, sometimes she even brings food to class… enough said.