Life Writing in the Genomic Age

In the first decade of the 21st century, a select group of people had their personal genomes sequenced, and a new textual analogy emerged: the genome as autobiography. But the analogy of the genome and autobiography raises various questions. How will the stories we tell about our lives evolve as our understanding of humanity is transformed by personal genomics? Can we resist simplistic tales of genetic determinism? What will genomic and genetic life narratives reveal about the challenges posed by DNA to our understanding of health, illness, and risk, as well as self?

Empathy and the Critic

While empathy appears to be a desirable human quality, in literary studies it remains a controversial concept. While some critics value it and argue that literature promotes it, others worry that appeals to empathy neglect important matters of social context. How then should we teach texts that invite and complicate readers’ empathy?

“Is Teaching Writing Still Possible?”

One of the problems that divides high school writing teachers and those at colleges and universities is that we tend to mean quite different things by the word “writing.” This makes the conversation about how to prepare students for writing in college confusing and difficult. To bridge the divide between high school and college writing, we need to learn more about each others’ educational goals and the different institutional structures in which we work. This article seeks to demystify what university professors typically mean when we talk about college writing.

Getting a Clue: Gerald Graff and the Life of the Mind

In Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind, Gerald Graff argues that college students are clueless about higher education and the life of the mind. Graff’s book offers a compelling argument, but are our students really clueless? And does teaching students always to think in terms of argument really teach them all that they need to know about the life of the mind?


College students on the autism spectrum are challenging prejudices about cognitive difference in higher education. In the composition classroom, these students also challenge conventional practices for teaching academic writing. In recent decades, composition studies has turned away from cognitive studies in favor of social constructivist approaches to understanding students, but the increasing numbers of students with autism in college classes will require us to engage in new ways with current cognitive research.