Scribner Seminar Program
Writing in America: The Contemporary Essay
Instructor(s): Linda Hall, Assistant Professor of English
What can a writer tell us about America that a scholar cannot? Students of history often turn to novels such as The Great Gatsby or Sister Carrie for a more nuanced description of the American experience than is available in many textbooks. But this country has also been defined and redefined by its literary nonfiction writers—men and women who produce not political documents or opinion journalism but beautifully crafted essays that, as Joseph Wood Krutch once claimed, “get closer to some all-important realities than any number of studies could.” In this seminar we will examine the realities of art, education, race, class and gender in America by studying what James Baldwin, E.B. White, Joan Didion, and Zora Neale Hurston (among many others) have had to say about them. We will also use the work of the most celebrated essayists of the past century to inform and inspire our own writing on America.