Kara Wittman

Associate Teaching Professor

I study and teach in two sometimes-related fields: the history and theory of the literary and philosophical essay; and critical pedagogy, especially pedagogies of writing and rhetoric. My work on the essay examines the critical and sometimes political resistance of an aesthetic form more often characterized by its winking relationship to argument, certainty, ideological commitment. I’m also interested in the essay as a form of “unknowing,” a literary expression of the philosophical passion of wonder. I am currently working with a visual anthropologist/filmmaker on a project about the photographic essays sponsored by the U.S. Farm Security Administration in the first half of the twentieth century; our work considers the correlation between the ethnographic and political exigencies of these essays and their experimental aesthetics. I am the co-editor, with Evan Kindley, of the Cambridge Companion to the Essay (Cambridge University Press, 2022). 

I come to Berkeley from Pomona College, where I served as Director of College Writing and Assistant Professor of English. At Pomona, I founded the Center for Speaking, Writing, and the Image, a cross-disciplinary center dedicated to peer mentorship and collaboration, inclusive pedagogy, language justice, and critical-rhetorical education at the intersection of written, oral, and visual communication. My work on teaching, writing, and rhetoric covers such topics as plagiarism and the fascination with originality in academic writing, the politics of clarity, and “small” forms of communication”: phatic utterances, marginal comments. I’m working on a book project that argues for reflective writing and metacognitive study as ways to examine and model a relationship between writing, thinking, and being human (versus, e.g., AI), create more inclusive classrooms, and sidestep normative and exclusionary forms of grading. 



Kara Wittman
Edited volume, 2022

Selected Publications

“Of Human Suffering: the Essay and Ekphrasis,” The Cambridge History of the British Essay, eds. Denise Gigante and Jason Childs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

“The Noticing Journal,” Reader: Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy, forthcoming.

“This Will Never Be 20/20: What Reflection Teaches Us About Assessment,” with George Cusack, Julie Christoph, and Bridget Fullerton, in Writing Assessment at Small Liberal Arts

Colleges, eds. Megan O’Neill and Genie Giaimo. South Carolina: Parlor Press, forthcoming.

“Third Space/Fourth Genre,” Workplace: a Journal for Academic Labor, Vol. 34 (2023), 95-107.

“The Essay in Theory,” The Cambridge Companion to the Essay, eds. Wittman and Kindley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022.

“The Writing Center is Not a Place,” WLN: A Journal for Writing Center Scholarship 47:2 (2022) and forthcoming in expanded/multimodal version for the The Post-Pandemic Writing Center (2024), eds. Noreen Lape and John Katunich.

“The Essay as Resistance,” The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay, eds. Nicole Wallack, Mario Aquilina, and Bob Cowser, Jr. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022.

“’To Feel, With Amazement, Their Minds’: Science, Humanism, Inquiry, and the Rhetorical Work of Wonder,” Writing STEAM: Composition, STEM, and a New Humanities, eds. Vivian Kao and Julia Kiernan. New York: Routledge, 2022.

“The Costs of Clarity,” with Alba Newmann Holmes, Failure Pedagogies: Learning and Unlearning What It Means to Fail (2020), eds. Allison D. Carr and Laura R. Micciche. New York: Peter Lang, 2020.

“New, Interesting, and Original: The Undergraduate as Amateur,” The Critic as Amateur, eds. Aarthi Vadde and Saikat Majumdar. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

“Literacy Narratives in the Margins,” College Composition and Communication, 67:4 (2016), 678-85.


432 Wheeler

Office Hours

By appointment