M. Johanna Meehan
Professor of Philosophy
McCay-Casady Professor of Humanities
The chair was created in 1993 by a donation of Dale (’32) and Rose Casady (’34) McCay. McCay was Professor Emeritus of English at Iowa State University, where he taught from 1945 through 1974. The chair was previously held by Dennis Perri.
Professor Meehan joined the Grinnell College faculty in 1988 as Assistant Professor of Philosophy upon earning the Ph.D. from Boston University. She received tenure in 1997 and was promoted to full professor in 2006. In addition to teaching in the Philosophy Department, she is an active contributor to the Gender, Women’s Studies, and Sexuality (GWSS) major.
Her scholarship is widely respected and significant in its scope. While still an assistant professor, she edited an influential collection of feminist essays on Jurgen Habermas. Since receiving tenure in 1997, she has been a regular and prolific presenter at conferences and has published over a dozen articles in some of the top journals in her field. She has developed a distinctive and widely appreciated voice within the Critical Theory tradition, and her writings have earned the respect not only of her peers but of the leading theorists within the tradition. Her work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, gender theory, and trauma studies. This impressive productivity has taken place while she has been working steadily on an ongoing book project.
Professor Meehan actively brings the process and results of her scholarship into the classroom. She has taught the full range of Philosophy and GWSS courses, many of them focusing on issues in ethics: Ethical Theory; Contemporary Ethical Issues; Power, Privilege, and Oppression; and a GWS capstone course, A Few Good Women: Living the Ethical Life. She has also taught on the development of the self, and seminars on the topics of her scholarly research, Hannah Arendt and Jurgen Habermas. Her senior seminars are often crowded, a mark of how well regarded she is by students. Her departmental colleagues are quick to point out, however, that this is not because she is easy on her students. The opposite is the case: she urges her students to accomplish far more than they think they can. Students appreciate this, and many in her Tutorial and Introduction to Philosophy classes go on to major in philosophy. One key to her success is the immediate relation she has with her students: supportive yet demanding, expecting and getting the best they can give, and making herself accessible beyond even the norm at Grinnell College where expectations of faculty among students are high. As testimony to the respect in which Grinnell College students hold her, she has spoken at the mid-year commencement ceremony repeatedly, at the invitation of the graduating seniors.
Her service to the College and beyond is extensive and wide-ranging. She has served on most of the standing committees of the faculty. She has also served as chair of the Philosophy Department, on several search committees, and on numerous ad hoc committees and task forces. In 2002 she was a Nanjing Teaching Fellow in China. Beyond the College she has served in a number of roles in the philosophical community, including as President of the Iowa Philosophical Society and as an elected member of the Committee on the Status of Women of the Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy.