Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: Education
Competition: US & Canada
Deborah Brandt is widely recognized as one of the leading lights in the field of literacy studies. In addition to the more than two dozen articles and book chapters she has written, many of which have been reprinted multiple times, she is the author of two highly influential monographs: Literacy as Involvement: The Acts of Writers, Readers, and Texts (Southern Illinois UP, 1990), which won the 1992 David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research from the National Council of Teachers of English, and Literacy in American Lives (Cambridge UP, 2001), which was honored in 2002 with the Modern Language Association’s Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize and in 2003 with both the Grawemeyer Award—the most coveted prize in the field of education, and the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Outstanding Book Award. In 2009, seven of her lectures and essays in the fields of education and literacy were collected in Literacy and Learning: Reflections on Writing, Reading and Society; published by Jossey-Boss as the inaugural volume in its Outstanding Ideas in Education series, the book also contains “A Conversation with Deborah Brandt” at the time she received the Grawemeyer Award. From 1993 to 2001, she coedited the multidisciplinary journal Written Communication: An International Quarterly.
Educated at Rutgers (B.A., 1974) and Indiana (M.A., 1978; Ph.D., 1983) universities, she accepted an assistant professorship in the English department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, on completing her doctoral studies and is currently a Professor of English there. During her almost thirty years at Wisconsin, she not only has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in her department but was instrumental in building its doctoral program in writing and rhetoric. Her efforts earned her a campus-wide Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (1993) and two Graduate Teaching Awards from the English Graduate Student Association (1998, 2010). In addition, the university has supported her research with a Vilas Associate Research Fellowship (1996-97) and several research grants.
She has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (1986) and the National Research Council (1998-99); during the latter, she was a Visiting Scholar at the United States Department of Education. Two years previously she had received a grant from that department in support of her research.
The impact of her work has been felt well beyond the borders of the University of Wisconsin campus and academe: she has helped influence public policy as a Research Associate at the National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement (1996-2002) and a consultant for the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (2005-07) and currently for the National Writing Project. Locally, her ongoing efforts in support of social justice and educational opportunity in the Madison community have been recognized by the NAACP’s W.E.B. DuBois Advocate Award (2001) and two nominations by the Madison Urban League for the city’s Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award for her work with middle-school students in Madison.
During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, she will be completing Writing Now: New Directions in Mass Literacy, which she describes as “a study that explores the ascendancy of writing as a second stage of mass literacy, focusing on the impact of writing as a means of production in the American economy since about 1960.”