Writing and Academic Work

(Co-Conveners:  Toril Moi and Sarah Beckwith)  This group will focus on the art of writing in academia, particularly on writing about literature and culture.  The project builds on a conviction that good writing fosters good thinking and that writing is not a stylistic layer added on to pre-existing thought but the medium in which those thoughts take shape. Writing is a craft.  It is both a central topic in literary studies and its essential medium.  Paying attention to the craft of writing helps improve intellectual work and helps those who wish to do so to communicate to non-academic audiences, to common readers who care about literature and culture.

This working group will explore the intertwinement of reading and writing, in academic and non-academic writing.  The focus will be on non-fiction, with special attention to the art of the essay, from Montaigne to David Foster Wallace.  The group plans to meet regularly to discuss readings (concerning the art of the essay, academic writing and non-fiction writing). Outstanding academic writers and non-fiction writers will be invited to speak and run workshops.   A day-long symposium on the art of writing in the academy is also envisioned.  Possible texts may include:  John d’Agata’s  New History of the Essay (by which he means the American essay), and talented writers who are reviving the essay form (Leslie Jamison, Eula Biss, Michelle Orange, amongst others).  Relatively new publications such as n+1, and The Point are offering new venues for different essayistic forms and voices as well.