Professor Profile: Meehan Challenges Writing Conventions

By Alice Horner

For Dr. Sean Meehan, writing is much more than just putting words on the page. As an assistant professor of English and the director of writing, Meehan strives for an interdisciplinary approach to writing and teaching.

Meehan takes a step outside the conventional view of an academic essay by incorporating more inventive methods.

“There’s a literary tradition of essay writing that’s imaginative,” Meehan said. “Criticism and imagination are not mutually exclusive.”

Meehan focuses on the often neglected genre of nonfiction, and believes that the “academic” writing that occurs in the classroom shows up in a variety of places.

“The culture of writing outside the classroom reinforces the cultivation of writing that goes on in classrooms across campus. This place is a gem that way because you have the Literary House, the Sophie Kerr tradition and an incredible schedule of writers. There’s more going on with the arts here than I’ve seen in larger cities,” said Meehan.

Meehan is also interested in the combination of technology and writing. All of his courses utilize the blog as a teaching tool. At the University of Iowa, Meehan explored the concept of technology in his doctoral dissertation on photography as the new medium for thinking and writing during the times of Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Meehan is also interested in the art of teaching itself. He taught at private high schools before going to graduate school, and his position at Washington College was created for someone with a background in teaching writing.

While he is not teaching, Meehan spends time with his two children and plays tennis regularly, a hobby that he says reminds him of the difficulties of learning that his students face in the classroom.

“I’m still learning,” he said, with laugh.

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