Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Beyond "Composition": Teaching Literature Through Writing at a Diverse Urban University

Dr. Betsy Klimasmith.

At working-class urban universities, student populations are often characterized by transience. Instead of following a continuous course of study, many students' undergraduate coursework is interrupted, sometimes for long periods of time. While returning students are often enthusiastic about and well-prepared by their life experiences to engage in and think deeply about humanistic ideas, issues, and questions in literary texts, their writing and research skills often lag far behind, preventing them from expressing their insights with clarity. This is exacerbated when students are writing in a second (or third) language. Using composition theory and case studies of student work in advanced literature classes at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, this presentation will offer examples of writing assignments and course organization that allow literary study and student writing to mutually enrich each other. Through such a recursive process, I argue, less entitled students may articulate the powerful ideas and higher-level analysis that advanced work in the humanities both inspires and requires. Furthermore, such a process opens the classroom to voices and insights that move far beyond those of the more "traditional" undergraduate.


Dr. Betsy Klimasmith  (United States)
Assistant Professor of English
English Department
University of Massachusetts at Boston

Betsy Klimasmith teaches courses in American Literature and American Culture at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, she writes on urban literature, environmental literature, and the work of Mary Austin.

  • Urban
  • Literature
  • Composition
  • Pedagogy
  • Non-traditional

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)