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Academic Lives

Memoir, Cultural Theory, and the University Today

Cynthia G. Franklin

Publication Year: 2009

Since the early 1990s, there has been a proliferation of memoirs by tenured humanities professors. Although the memoir form has been discussed within the flourishing field of life writing, academic memoirs have received little critical scrutiny. Based on close readings of memoirs by such academics as Michael Bérubé, Cathy N. Davidson, Jane Gallop, bell hooks, Edward Said, Eve Sedgwick, Jane Tompkins, and Marianna Torgovnick, Academic Lives considers why so many professors write memoirs and what cultural capital they carry. Cynthia G. Franklin finds that academic memoirs provide unparalleled ways to unmask the workings of the academy at a time when it is dealing with a range of crises, including attacks on intellectual freedom, discontentment with the academic star system, and budget cuts.

Franklin considers how academic memoirs have engaged with a core of defining concerns in the humanities: identity politics and the development of whiteness studies in the 1990s; the impact of postcolonial studies; feminism and concurrent anxieties about pedagogy; and disability studies and the struggle to bring together discourses on the humanities and human rights. The turn back toward humanism that Franklin finds in some academic memoirs is surreptitious or frankly nostalgic; others, however, posit a wide-ranging humanism that seeks to create space for advocacy in the academic and other institutions in which we are all unequally located. These memoirs are harbingers for the critical turn to explore interrelations among humanism, the humanities, and human rights struggles.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

"If in this book on academic memoir there is any place where I most directly write my own, it is here, in this space set aside to acknowledge my own institutional location and the experiences and the deep attachments without which this book would not exist. My dean, Joe O’Mealy, has been the source..."

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Chapter 1. The Academic Memoir Movement

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pp. 1-27

"In this book I explore the insights that contemporary academic memoirs provide into the humanities as an intellectual and institutional formation. Since the early 1990s and continuing into the present, humanities professors, many of them working in English departments, have been writing their memoirs in unprecedented numbers. As David Simpson..."

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Chapter 2. Whiteness Studies and Institutional Autobiography

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pp. 28-76

"Toward the end of the 1997–98 school year, the English Department at the University of Hawai‘i was in the final rounds of a three-year struggle over the revision of the undergraduate major. After a tense department meeting—one during which many assistant professors called the present..."

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Chapter 3. Postcolonial Studies and Memoirs of Travel, Diaspora, and Exile

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pp. 77-139

"In 2003, ten years after Doris Duke’s death, portions of her Honolulu home, Shangri La, were opened for public touring. The product of a passion for Islamic art that Duke developed on her eight-month honeymoon when she visited the Taj Mahal, Shangri La houses the fifth-largest..."

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Chapter 4. Feminist Studies and the Academic Star System

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pp. 140-212

"On November 10, 1999, student leaders at the University of Hawai‘i were invited to a faculty congress meeting to discuss a proposal to reform the core curriculum. One of the most controversial aspects of the proposal pertained to the language requirement—many faculty members in the sciences vociferously opposed a reduced, but still in place, Hawaiian or..."

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Chapter 5. Disability Studies and Institutional Interventions

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pp. 213-274

"Previous chapters of this book critique memoirs for basing their politics on the claim to feelings in a way that precludes attention to institutional analysis and to an author’s institutional privilege. We’ve already explored how, in the context of the 1990s academy, and especially for those who occupy positions of privilege within it, academic memoirs reveal that too..."

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Conclusion. Memoir and the Post–September 11 Academy

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pp. 275-280

"At the start of the new millennium, as memoir’s currency continues, it is accompanied by a new, post–September 11 phenomenon: a McCarthylike assault by the media and politicians on academics’ freedom to express views critical of U.S. foreign policy.1 This clampdown frequently takes place in the name of championing the very principles of free expression..."


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pp. 281-308


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pp. 309-330


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pp. 331-347

E-ISBN-13: 9780820335872
E-ISBN-10: 0820335878
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820333427
Print-ISBN-10: 0820333425

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 593297328
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Academic Lives

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Autobiography -- Authorship.
  • College teachers as authors -- United States.
  • College teachers -- United States -- Biography
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