Merrill received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in 1990 after completing a dissertation entitled “Self-Reflections: The Dialectics of Autobiography.” She also holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and is a practicing attorney. She was a lecturer in the Writing Programs at UCLA from 1986 to 2005 and received a UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award in 2002.
For her research project, she is writing a law review article about the constitutional right to privacy in which she argues for “a re-narrativization of the legal subject of privacy as, in part, textual or linguistic.” In legal scholarship and jurisprudence, she notes, the constitutional right to privacy has increasingly been conceptualized as a right to autonomy and self-definition, but without a sense of how subjectivity is fashioned not only through self-defining acts but through the meanings accorded such acts in their textualization. She believes that a reconceptualization of the right to privacy, as including vital First Amendment interests, can productively shift attention from an exclusive focus on the acts a government may not proscribe to an examination of the state’s role in shaping constitutionally protected decisions through the provision or withholding of information and the regulation of narrative meanings.
“The right to privacy under consideration here is the ‘unwritten’ right said to emanate from multiple constitutional provisions–as distinct from the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unwarranted searches and seizures. This constitutional privacy right is currently the legal guarantor of reproductive and sexual freedoms for women and gays. While core First Amendment values–such as the rights to self-expression, to receive information, and to be free of coercive speech–recur in the foundational privacy cases, the implications of the connection between privacy and First Amendment rights have not been fully explored.”