Campus conference to inaugurate new ‘Helene Moglen Lecture in Feminism and Humanities’

Helene Moglen ucsc conference poster
Helene Moglen
Helene Moglen

UC Santa Cruz will present Writing for Living, a conference in honor of emeritus dean of humanities and literature professor Helene Moglen (1936-2018), on March 13-14 at the Humanities Division.

The conference inaugurates the first biennial Helene Moglen Lecture in Feminism and the Humanities, which will be delivered by Myra Jehlen, Board of Governors emerita professor of English at Rutgers University, on the topic of “Unreadable Writing.”

Beginning on Friday evening, with a reading by acclaimed poet and former student Brenda Shaughnessy, the day-and-a-half event invites colleagues and former students to speak about their current work on themes related to--or inspired by--Moglen’s work.

The conference is designed to be a celebration of Moglen’s contributions to feminist and psychoanalytic theory in literature, feminist institution building, the mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students, and the teaching of writing, both in and outside of the university.

The Saturday sessions will include one dedicated to thinking about trauma, writing, psychoanalysis and teaching, and another on Asian-American and women-of-color literatures and visual production, feminist theory, and critical race studies.

Additional keynote speakers at the conference will include Leslie Bow on “Writing in Absence”, and Susan Derwin about “Writing with Veterans.”

A professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Moglen’s former graduate student, Bow will speak on race fetishism and psychoanalysis. She will draw her talk from her current work on "Racist Love: Asian Americans and the Fantasy of Race."   

Derwin, director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and professor of German, Slavic, and Semitic Studies at UC Santa Barbara, will speak about the essence of Moglen's relationship to writing as a practice that makes living possible. She is founding director of the University of California Veterans Summer Writing Workshop and of Foundations in the Humanities, a correspondence program for incarcerated individuals operating in multiple California prisons

Shaughnessy will read from her poetry at both the opening and closing of the conference. Now an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University, she was a double major in literature and women’s studies at UCSC, as well as Moglen’s undergraduate student in the early 1990s. A finalist for the prestigious international Griffin Poetry Prize and recipient of a Guggenheim award, her latest book is The Octopus Museum.

Moglen first came to UCSC in 1978 as a professor of literature and dean of the humanities--she was the first woman dean in the University of California system. She also served as provost of Kresge College until 1983, transforming and revitalizing that college into a vibrant intellectual community.

Moglen helped to shape the modern UCSC campus by establishing an independent School of Arts, integrating writing into the foundation curriculum, and establishing and chairing the Committee on Sexual Harassment. She served as chair of the Women's Studies program from 1984-1989, in addition to founding the Focused Research Activity (FRA) in Women’s/Feminist Studies.

Appointed to the prestigious Presidential Chair in Literature in 2003, she used that funding to establish the Institute of Advanced Feminist Research and support its program of research. A cross-disciplinary, collaborative bridge between the university and the wider community, it sponsored reading groups, conferences, publication projects, and graduate student research.

Moglen retired in 2008, but remained engaged by still teaching until 2013 and mentoring graduate students and junior faculty.


With support from Sheila Namir and Eben Moglen, UC Santa Cruz has established an endowment for The Helene Moglen Lecture in Feminism and Humanities to honor her legacy. For more information about the conference and the endowment, visit the Center for Cultural Studies web site. Admission to the conference is free and open to the public.