Kathlene McDonald

Areas of Expertise/Research

  • Autobiography and Memoir
  • Caregiver Narratives
  • Class, Culture, and Social Change
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Feminist Pedagogy
  • Global/Immigrant Literature
  • Medicine and Literature
  • Public Humanities
  • Women and Gender Studies


25 Broadway



Kathlene McDonald


Kathy McDonald is a Professor of English in the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.  Much of her published work considers the relationship between class, culture, and movement building in twentieth-century United States literature.  McDonald's first book, Feminism, the Left, and Postwar Literary Culture, examines the cultural work of women writers on the Left in the United States in the years immediately following World War II.  She argues that these cultural works anticipate issues about women's cultural and ideological oppression and the intersections of gender, race, and class that would become central tenants of feminist literary criticism and black feminist criticism in the 1970s and '80s.  She has also published articles in various journals and edited volumes, including Black Scholar, Women's Studies Quarterly, Against the Current, Invisible Suburbs: Recovering Protest Fiction in the 1950s United States, Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice, and Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society.  She has received numerous grants and awards to support her research, including a faculty fellowship with the Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research at the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center/CUNY, several PSC-CUNY Research Awards, a CCNY Presidential Research Award, the Margaret Storrs Grierson Travel-to-Collections Fund award, and the Lillian S. Robinson Scholar award.  She is a 2023-2024 Black, Race and Ethnic Studies (BRES) Faculty Fellow, affiliated with the BRES Collaboration Hub at the Graduate Center/CUNY.

In the past few years, her work has shifted into the field of medical humanities, a field that draws on the humanities and arts to provide insight into experiences of illness and care and their socio-cultural contexts.  Her current project examines the relationship between personal narratives, carework, and public policy advocacy.  She also works with cancer patients and family caregivers through the “Visible Ink” writing program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and has run writing and storytelling workshops for family and paid caregivers in partnership with The Moth and Working Theater.  She is the founder of The Labor of Care Archive: Narratives of Caregiving at CUNY, a storytelling and oral history project, where CUNY faculty, staff, and students who are family or paid caregivers for elderly, ill, or disabled people share their stories about juggling work, family, school, and caregiving obligations: https://laborofcare.com/


PhD, English, University of Maryland

MA, English, State University of New York at Binghamton

BA, Women's Studies, Colgate University

Courses Taught

Medicine and Literature, Carework across the Americas, Autobiography Seminar, Advanced Seminar in Autobiography, The Global Short Story, Immigrant Literature, Contemporary Women Writers, Book Talk: Writers on Writing, American Literature since World War II, Women and Work, and Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies


"CUNY Students Need More Support.  New York Daily News, 29 Mar. 2022.  https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-cuny-students-succeed-20220329-crff3dphvbh2zl4uqyoqgmjfnm-story.html

Rev. of Cultural Production and The Politics of Women's Work in American Literature and Film, by Polina Kroik.  Journal of Labor and Society 22.2 (2019): 563-564.

"Feminist Literature."  American Literature in Transition, 1950-1960.  Ed. Steven W. Belletto.  New York, NY: Cambridge UP, 2018.  https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108289542.013

Feminism, the Left, and Postwar Literary Culture.Jackson, MS: UP of Mississippi, 2012.  https://www.upress.state.ms.us/Books/F/Feminism-the-Left-and-Postwar-Li…

"Hitler's Bestiary from the Inside."  Rev. of In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, by Erik Larson.  Against the Current Jan.-Feb. 2012.

"Nikki Giovanni."  The Literary Encyclopedia.  15 August 2011. http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=1759

"Organizing at the Margins: Women Shape the Labor Movement."  Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society 11.4 (2008): 409-12.

"Postwar Left Feminism and Antifascist Resistance in the Cultural Work of Martha Dodd."  Invisible Suburbs: Recovering Protest Fiction in the 1950s United States.  Ed. Josh Lukin.  Jackson, MS: UP of Mississippi, 2008: 41-61.

"Labor Culture."  Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice.  Eds. Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn Herr.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage P, 2007.  815-17.

"Nikki Giovanni."  African American Autobiographers: A Sourcebook.  Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson.  Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 2002.  151-55.

"Paule Marshall's Critique of Capitalism and Cold War Ideology: Brown Girl, Brownstones as a Resistant Working-Class Text."  Black Scholar 30.2 (2000): 26-33.

"Talking Trash, Talking Back: Resistance to Stereotypes in Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina."  Women's Studies Quarterly 26.1-2 (1998): 15-25.