Janet Miller: A Busy Mind is Never at Rest ☆

Janet Miller

Janet Miller, Professor of English Education

Though a sabbatical by definition means a period of rest, it appears that most professors at TC have too much to do to actually spend their time off resting. Janet Miller, Professor of English Education, is no exception. Janet earned a sabbatical during the spring of 2009 and arguably did more in a semester than many people do in an entire year.

During the early part of that semester, Louisiana State University hosted Janet as a Distinguished Research Visiting Scholar for five weeks. She spoke as a guest lecturer in a number of doctoral classes as well as presented three public lectures. One of these was the Invited Centennial Lecture at the LSU School of Education, on “Engaging Hopeful Visions and Complex Realities in Teaching and Educational Leadership,” to a large audience of pre- and in-service teachers, LSU and surrounding universities’ faculty and administrators, school principals and superintendents, and local educational activists.

Janet also spent a portion of her sabbatical preparing the Keynote Address for the 30th anniversary of the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, the annual conference of JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing. Janet, along with colleague William Pinar, founded JCT in 1979 as an interdisciplinary and academic journal of curriculum studies. Her keynote was the “culmination” of the conference, which took place this past October. As fitting for an anniversary, her keynote was to some degree retrospective and entitled “Nostalgia for the Future: Imagining Histories of JCT and Bergamo” and dealt with the history of the journal and its conference as well as with theorizing nostalgia.

In addition to these engagements, Janet continued her work on two separate book projects. The author of Sounds of silence breaking: Women, autobiography, curriculum as well as Creating spaces and finding voices: Teachers collaborating for empowerment, Routledge Press asked her to submit two book proposals as extensions of her research and writing. One of these projects is a study of “narrative, qualitative research,” with a particular focus on poststructuralist and feminist theorizings of “autobiography.” For this project, Janet is bringing in members of her “string group,” a close-knit study and research group of current and former doctoral students with whom she has been working for nine years. The group got its name from a discussion they had about the physics concept of string theory in relation to poststructuralist notions of subjectivity as irreducibly multiple, contingent and constantly shifting. Configurations of “the string group” have presented work at a number of academic conferences.

The other book project is, according to Janet, the “most challenging, and probably the most impossible thing I have ever attempted,” writing a version of Maxine Greene’s intellectual biography. Maxine, Emerita Professor of Philosophy and Education and a world-renowned scholar, has been the subject of many books and films, but no one has ever written a full biography. Friends for over 30 years, Maxine approached Janet several years ago about beginning this project, and the two have been working on and off on it ever since, accumulating over four years of recorded conversations. Although she has written about Maxine’s work before, Janet is currently trying to figure out the best way to approach what has evolved into “collaborative conversations” about confluences and disjunctures between and among women academics and their multifaceted lives. Both Janet and Maxine acknowledge that writing any version of a “comprehensive biography” is “impossible,” but continuing their conversations and forming these into some kind of written pastiche comprises one of Janet’s main scholarly projects.

As if all of these endeavors were not enough to fill a semester, Janet continued to meet with her doctoral students and somehow managed to squeeze in a trip to Paris. We warmly welcome her back full-time to TC.