UH Mānoa professor publishes book on significance of academic memoirs

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Sep 29, 2009

UH Mānoa English professor Cynthia G. Franklin examines the role that memoirs play in the current academic climate in her recently published book, “Academic Lives: Memoir, Cultural Theory and the University Today.”  
Franklin’s book takes a closer look at why professors write memoirs and what cultural capital they carry. She 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 system that elevated some academics to the status of celebrities, and budget cuts. 
She 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; the institutionalization of feminism and resulting anxieties about questions of authority and pedagogy; and disability studies and the struggle to bring together discourses on the humanities and human rights.
Her book was recently reviewed by The Chronicle for Higher Education and Inside Higher Education.When asked by the latter to comment on the role memoir can play in the current academic climate, Franklin stated, “Because the personal remains as popular as it is political, memoir might very well remain a viable source for academics to reach a broad liberal readership in a non-threatening—and uncensored—way when overtly political departments and programs as well as faculty members are under siege in the name of ‘academic freedom.’ ”
Franklin obtained a BA from Stanford University, and an MA and PhD from the University of California-Berkeley. She has been a professor at UH Mānoa since 1994, and is also co-editor of Biography, a quarterly interdisciplinary journal.
Her work focuses on contemporary women’s literature, ethnic U.S. literatures, life writing, disability studies, feminist theory and cultural studies.   She received the Frances Davis Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1998 and Regents’ Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2007.