English professor Devoney Looser has made her return after 12 years away from teaching at ASU, and she is ready to start the school year off on the right skate.
Looser is not just ASU’s newest English professor. After a grueling week of giving lectures and grading papers, Looser lets loose by slipping into her roller derby alter ego, Stone Cold Jane Austen, on the weekends.
Looser grew up speed skating as a child in her hometown in Minnesota, but she didn’t become acquainted with the rough and tough world of roller derby until she began teaching at the University of Missouri.
Introduced to roller derby by former Mizzou special collections librarian Katie Carr and University of Missouri graduate student Angela Rehbein, Looser didn’t think she was cut out for the sport.
“I thought I was too old, but my friend Katie said ‘absolutely not,’” Looser said.
Looser’s introduction to roller derby was one of trial and error as well as to see if the three friends would even enjoy the sport.
“Devoney, Angela and I were recruited for roller derby while skating during ‘Retro Night’ at our local roller rink,” Carr said in an email. “Devoney and Angela were hesitant to go try it out, but I encouraged them to go.”
Looser quickly fell in love with roller derby and joined the CoMo Derby Dames in Columbia, Mo. She became a blocker on the team after competing for a jammer position.
“It took Devoney a while to get the hang of the sport, but once she did, she took off,” Carr said. “She even won MVP blocker at our first bout.”
Flat track roller derby is played by two teams with five members. Each team skates in the same direction around the track. The game consist of match ups or “jams” in which both teams choose a jammer, whose job is to lap members of the opposing team. The teams play both offense and defense simultaneously with blockers attempting to stop the opponent’s jammers.
Outside of teaching at ASU and knocking women into the rails of the roller derby rink, Looser is a published author and expert on Jane Austen.
Looser has been teaching for more than 20 years and enjoys every minute of it.
“I was a visiting teacher here at ASU in 2000-01, and I’m excited to back and in a more permanent way,” Looser said. “There is so much more to do.”
During the fall semester, Looser will be teaching a graduate seminar on the topic of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. In the spring, Looser will be joined by her husband, George Justice, for a large enrollment undergraduate course on Jane Austen.
“We describe it as a married couple arguing over novels,” Looser said.
Justice, who is also the dean of humanities at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said he is excited to work with his wife.
“We were trying to figure out what to teach, and we are both interested in new technology to teach students so we decided to create a hybrid class on novels and novelists,” Justice said. “In class, we’ll fight over novels, and online we’ll have high-quality materials to help students.”
Looser is working on two new books: “Jane Austen and the Women’s Movement” and a biography on Jane and Anna Maria Porter, two 18th and 19th century novelists and poets.
Looser is looking for a new roller derby team and said she feels blessed to be able to work with her husband at ASU.
“I just love what I do,” Looser said.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the amount of time Devoney Looser has been away from teaching at ASU. She had been teaching at the University of Missouri during her time away from ASU.