We are pleased to announce that the most recent issue of Biography is now available on Project Muse. Biography 42.4, “Academic Freedom, Academic Lives,” is a cluster guest edited by Bill V. Mullen and Julie Rak and includes essays from Amanda Gailey, Malaka Shwaikh and Rebecca Ruth Gould, Elżbieta Klimek-Dominiak, and Theresa Smalec.
Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 4, 2019
Academic Freedom, Academic Lives
Bill V. Mullen and Julie Rak, guest editors
“Academic Freedom, Academic Lives: An Introduction”
Bill V. Mullen and Julie Rak
Academic freedom is currently highly public and highly contested terrain. What academic freedom actually means has become an urgent question, as alt-right activists have turned the tenets of academic freedom to their own ends, whether on college and university campuses, or through the actions of right-wing governments as they move to suppress dissent. We want to reclaim the concept of academic freedom for the left and for academic activism, not through a debate about the concept as an abstraction, but in connection to what we see as the radical potential of academic lives. Thinking of academic lives as interpretation and critique is a way to disrupt the current alt-right control of public discourse about freedom of speech.
“Hypatia Redux: Three Stories of Silencing Academic Women”
Three stories of academic women reveal how political factions in different political settings—Church apologists in the Age of Enlightenment, Red Scare demagogues in the Cold War, and white nationalists in the Trump era—have used gender deviance as justification for marking boundaries around who gets to speak and teach. The murder of Hypatia of Alexandria attracted renewed attention in the eighteenth century when ideologues focused on her sexual morality to challenge or affirm the authority of the Church. Luella Mundel, an art professor in West Virginia, was fired and publicly castigated as a vulgar communist sympathizer by conservative politicians during the second Red Scare. Courtney Lawton, a lecturer and PhD student in English at the University of Nebraska, was removed from the classroom and targeted by hate swarms and politicians after she participated in a campus protest in 2017. The cases explore how free speech and academic freedom work as embodied power rather than universally available rights.
“The Palestine Exception to Academic Freedom: Intertwined Stories from the Frontlines of UK-Based Palestine Activism”
Malaka Shwaikh and Rebecca Ruth Gould
This autobiographical co-authored essay explores how hate speech wounds within the logic of the Palestine exception, whereby Israel-critical speech is subjected to censorship and silencing that does not affect other controversial speech. Three months after the UK government’s “adoption” of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism in 2016, we were subjected to a series of attacks in the media, in the public sphere, and in our workplaces in connection with our Palestine-related activism and criticisms of Israeli policies from years earlier. The crackdown on academic freedom that has overtaken UK universities since 2017 has been widely condemned, but rarely has this story been told from the vantage point of those who were targeted and censored. We document here in detail how the Palestine exception to free speech and academic freedom has damaged academic freedom within the UK and silenced Palestinian voices.
“Blank Pages for Nida Sajid”
“Gender Studies and Women’s Equality as Orwellian ‘Thoughtcrimes’?: The Threat of Self-Censorship and Polish Academic Autobiographical Resistance”
Given the significant increase of recent threats by the far right against Polish gender studies scholars, this article focuses on the life narratives of Polish academics who have been intimidated because of their research. It argues that the danger of substituting self-censorship for free inquiry can be partially prevented by acts of academic autobiographical resistance. It has developed not in book-length memoirs, but in various life narratives, such as acts of self-presentation through extended biographical interviews, personal essays, open letters of protest, online accounts of witnessing, and the visual arts. Such an approach involving common autobiographical acts in multiple media best enacts both intellectual and affective forms of academic resistance to widespread misrepresentations of gender studies.
“Coercive Intimacy: Reflections on Public and Private Backlash Against #MeToo”
In this paper, I use the term “coercive intimacy” to analyze seemingly consensual exchanges and/or relationships that nonetheless originate in contexts where there is a fundamental power imbalance. In other words, someone with more power (economic, cultural, or sociopolitical) has the ability to give something desirable to someone with significantly less power. In reflecting on the overt and subtle abuses of power that underlie the exchange of “intimacy” for other kinds of commodities and means of advancement, I also examine the forms of backlash I faced for reviewing an art show that represented a woman’s experiences of sexual misconduct in academia.
“Self-Publication, Self-Promotion, and the Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave”
This article sketches the early history of self-publication by African American authors and focuses on the life and work of the formerly enslaved William Grimes, who published two editions of his Life in the antebellum period. A savvy self-promoter, Grimes appropriated the ballad “Old Grimes is Dead” and marketed himself as “Old Grimes” to garner customers for his barbering and clothes cleaning business and sell copies of his book. These efforts helped Grimes realize a measure of success as a businessman and author, but the unintended consequences resulting from his self-promotion and marketing strategies highlight some of the challenges attending entrepreneurial self-publication by African American writers.
“Listening to the Grandmother Tongue: Writers on Other-Languaged Grandparents and Transcultural Identity”
This article considers Patricia Hampl’s A Romantic Education (1981) and John Hughes’s The Idea of Home (2004) as third-generation “language migrant” memoirs. The texts evoke a dual sense of strangeness and familiarity in childhood experiences with migrant grandparents who spoke another language. Although cultural transmission appears more tenuous here than in second-generation migrant narratives, these two memoirs suggest that the transcultural remains defining of third-generation migrant lives.
Biographical Misrepresentations of British Women Writers: A Hall of Mirrors and the Long Nineteenth Century, edited by Brenda Ayres
Reviewed by Meritxell Simon-Martin
Medical Humanities in American Studies: Life Writing, Narrative Medicine, and the Power of Autobiography, by Mita Banerjee
Reviewed by Sam Allen Wright
Undocumented Migrants in the United States: Life Narratives and Self-Representations, by Ina Batzke
Reviewed by Ina C. Seethaler
Modernist Lives: Biography and Autobiography at Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, by Claire Battershill
Reviewed by Miriam Fuchs
Homes and Haunts: Touring Writers’ Shrines and Countries, by Alison Booth
Reviewed by Lee Jackson
Modernity and Autobiography in Nineteenth-Century America: Literary Representations of Communication and Transportation Technologies, by James E. Dobson
Reviewed by Susan Shelangoskie
Writers’ Biographies and Family Histories in 20th- and 21st-Century Literature, edited by Aude Haffen and Lucie Guiheneuf
Reviewed by Robert Kusek
British Autobiography in the 20th and 21st Centuries, edited by Sarah Herbe and Gabriele Linke
Reviewed by Monica Soeting
Narratology beyond the Human: Storytelling and Animal Life, by David Herman
Reviewed by Cynthia Huff
Discursive Intersexions: Daring Bodies between Myth, Medicine, and Memoir, by Michaela Koch
Reviewed by Megan Walker
German Women’s Life Writing and the Holocaust: Complicity and Gender in the Second World War, by Elisabeth Krimmer
Reviewed by Christine Nugent
Portraits from Life: Modernist Novelists and Autobiography, by Jerome Boyd Maunsell
Reviewed by Dennis Kersten
Women’s Narratives and the Postmemory of Displacement in Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Simona Mitroiu
Reviewed by Tomas Balkelis
Witnessing Torture: Perspectives of Torture Survivors and Human Rights Workers, edited by Alexandra S. Moore and Elizabeth Swanson
Reviewed by Annie Pohlman
Memories of Lincoln and the Splintering of American Political Thought, by Shawn J. Parry-Giles and David S. Kaufer
Reviewed by Elizabeth Rodrigues
Food and Masculinity in Contemporary Autobiographies: Cast-Iron Man, by Nieves Pascual Soler
Reviewed by Alice L. McLean
Literature and the Rise of the Interview, by Rebecca Roach
Reviewed by Jeffrey J. Williams
The Biographical Turn: Lives in History, edited by Hans Renders, Binne de Haan, and Jonne Harmsma
Reviewed by Carol DeBoer-Langworthy
The Power of the Steel-Tipped Pen: Reconstructing Native Hawaiian Intellectual History, by Noenoe K. Silva
Reviewed by Robert Warrior