Jeannine Johnson

Senior Lecturer in the Writing Program

I am director of the Writing Program and a senior lecturer in writing.

I teach first-year writing courses, including Wellesley and the World and What's in a Name? Investigating What We Call People, Places, and Things. I also team-teach, with Jocelyne Dolce, an advanced writing seminar for seniors in the McNair Scholars Program. From 2016-2018, I team-taught Live and Learn: Understanding Mind-Body Connections with Connie Bauman, and the experience of that class informed a paper on integrating wellness practices into the college classroom.

One of my goals in teaching is to help students to see writing, research, and scholarly argument not as ends in themselves but as an important way for us to engage with others. I aim to cultivate a supportive, inclusive classroom in which students develop their voice and feel confident that they have the tools to use it effectively. I design my courses so that students can make active connections between the lessons of the classrom and the world beyond it.

I've explored how poets perceive the possibilities and the limitations of other types of boundary-crossings in my book, Why Write Poetry? Modern Poets Defending Their Art (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007). In it, I examine the ways in which poets perceive the role of poetry in the broader culture, looking at how they defend its value within their poems and simultaneously question whether this defense is resonating outside them. I continue to be interested in the expression and uses of poetry in today's society.

I'm also interested in developing tools and practices to help students write with clarity, purpose, and an alertness to their audience, and to help educational institutions effectively support and promote their students' writing. In recent years, I have travelled to Japan and China to teach writing and to advise on best practices for educating and supporting college writers. In the U.S., I have led writing workshops for high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students, as well as for college faculty in the humanities and in the sciences.

I came to Wellesley in 2007. Before that, I taught in the Writing Program at Harvard, and in the English Department at Wake Forest University.

Beyond campus, I enjoy food, sports, and travel, the latter especially when it involves activities related to food or sports.


  • B.A., Haverford College
  • Ph.D., Yale University

Current and upcoming courses

  • Behind every name there is a story. In this course, we will explore those stories, learning the history and meaning of the labels that we affix to people, places, and things. We will pay particular attention to the power, responsibility, and consequences that come with naming and re-naming. We will examine recent controversies on college campuses involving the names of buildings, monuments, mascots, local flora, and landmarks. We will also study how the producers of all kinds of things–from poems to consumer products–use metaphor and neologism to refresh our understanding of the familiar, introduce us to the unfamiliar, and name the unnameable. In addition, we will explore how names and name changes can frame political discourse, sway opinion, influence behavior, and alter history.