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Deborah Mutnick

Deborah Mutnick

Co-Director, LIU Brooklyn Learning CommunitiesProfessor of EnglishAssessment Fellow

B.A., University of MichiganM.F.A., University of North CarolinaPh.D., New York University


Deborah Mutnick is Professor of English, former Director of Writing at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, and current Co-Director of LIU Brooklyn Learning Communities (LIUBLC). She is the author of Writing in an Alien World: Basic Writing and the Struggle for Equality in Higher Education (1996), recipient of the W. Ross Winterowd Award. She has published refereed articles and book chapters on basic writing, narrative, autobiography, critical pedagogy, oral history, and the intersection between geography and composition studies. In 2012, she received an NEH Digital Humanities Startup Grant for The Pathways to Freedom Digital Narrative Project, which maps oral histories of Brooklyn civil rights activists in time and space using GIS, crowdsourcing, and other digital technologies.

She serves on the editorial boards of Science & Society and the Journal of Basic Writing and has been a member of the Executive Board of the Conference on Basic Writing since 2008. She has served as well as an external reviewer of programs at Lehman College, New York City Technical College, Hunter College, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association.

Chief among her current interests are the digital humanities, oral history, ethnography, public writing, and university-community partnerships that bring the resources of universities to communities and vice versa, enabling students and faculty to engage in research, writing, and creative projects in a wide range of social contexts. Related to this work, she is researching and writing about the relevance to 21st century America of the Federal Writers’ Project created in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.


Rhetoric and Composition, Literacy, Basic Writing, Oral History, Ethnography, and Nonfiction Writing


Writing in an Alien World:  Basic Writing and the Struggle for Equality in Higher
     Education.  Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1996. 
“Writing Democracy: Notes on a Federal Writers’ Project for the 21st Century” with
Shannon Carter. Introduction. Special Issue, “Writing Democracy.” Community
     Literacy Journal. Ed. D. Mutnick and S. Carter, forthcoming.
“Reading to Write and the Economy of Attention.” Symposium. CWPA Journal 36.1
(2012): 191-95.
“Basic Writing and the Future of Higher Education.” Review Article. College English
73.3 (2011): 322-36.
“Still ‘Strangers in Academia’: Five Basic Writers’ Stories.” BWe: Basic Writing e-
     Journal 8/9 Basic Writing E-Journal, 2009-2010 (Double Issue).
“Intersections: A Place to do ‘the Work’.” Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Community
     Literacy, and Service Learning. 2009. 103-132.
“Inscribing the World: Reflections on an Oral History Project.” College Composition
     and Communication 58.4 (2007): 626-647.
“Time and Space in Composition Studies: ‘Through the Gates of the Chronotope.’” 
     Rhetoric Review 25.1:  2006.
“The Strategic Value of Basic Writing: An Analysis of the Current Moment.”  Journal
     of Basic Writing 19.1 (Spring 2000): 69-83.
Book Chapters
“Reflections on ‘Writing City Life’: Theory and Practice of a Place-Based Composition
Pedagogy.” In Composing Other Spaces. Ed. John Tassoni and Douglass Reichert
Powell. Hampton Press, 2008.
“Critical Interventions: The Meaning of Praxis.” In A Boal Companion: Dialogues on
     Theatre and Cultural Politics. Eds. Jan Cohen Cruz and Mady Schutzman.
Routledge, 2006.
“On the Academic Margins: Basic Writing Pedagogy.”  In A Guide to Composition
     Pedagogies. Ed. Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick. Oxford University Press,
2001. 183-202.
“Entering Conversations:  Using Journals and Informal Writing with Basic Writers.” In
The Journal Book for Teachers of Emerging Writers. Ed. Toby Fulwiler and Susan
A. Gardner.  Portsmouth, NH:  Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1999. 19-34.
“From Silence to Speech: How the ‘Dialogic Imagination’ Saved Me.”  In The Personal
     Narrative: Writing Ourselves as Teachers and Scholars.  Ed. Gil Haroian‑Guerin.
Calendar Island Press, 1999. 129-141.
“Rethinking the Personal Narrative:  Life Writing and Composition Pedagogy.” In
Under Construction: Working at the Intersections of Composition Theory, Research,
     and Practice. Ed. Christine Farris and Cris M. Anson.  Utah State University Press,
1998. 79-92.
"‘These Are Voices in History’: A Dialogic Basic Reading and Writing Program.” In
Vital Signs 3: Restructuring the English Classroom.  Ed. James L. Collins. 
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1992.  103-114.
Review of Che Guevera, Paulo Freire, and the Pedagogy of Revolution by Peter  
McLaren.  Science & Society: A Journal of Marxist Thought and Analysis, 2001.


NEH Digital Humanities Startup Grant for “The Pathways to Freedom Digital Narrative Project”
Puffin Foundation Grant for “Our Legacies: Who We Are, Where We’re From,” 2004.
Puffin Foundation Grant for “Plainfield Project,” 2000.
W. Ross Winterowd Award for the most outstanding book in composition theory in 1997.  Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition.
Finalist, 1995 CCCC James Berlin Memorial Outstanding Dissertation Award.
Randall Jarrell Scholarship, The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, 1977.
Avery Hopwood Award in Poetry, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1975.
Breadloaf Writers Conference Scholarship, Middlebury, Vermont, 1973.

Professional Affiliations

Board Member, Conference on Basic Writing - 2008-present
Editorial Board, Science & Society - 2001-present
Editorial Board, Journal of Basic Writing - 2003-present
National Council of Teachers of English - 1989-present
Conference on College Composition and Communication - 1989-present
Modern Language Association - 1991-present
Council of Writing Program Administrators - 1992-2000; 2007-present