critics

c/o The Shapiro Center

The Shapiro Center for Creative Writing and Criticism ended its “The Critic and Her Publics” programming on Tuesday, April 16. The series invited 11 guest critics—Andrea Long Chu, Sophie Pinkham, Carina Del Valle Schorske, Hannah Goldfield, Anahid Nersessian, Moira Donegan, Jo Livingstone, Lauren Michele Jackson, Doreen St. Felix, Maggie Doherty, and Christine Smallwood—to converse with the Center’s Director Merve Emre.     

“I have been amazed by how every single person who has come to speak to us is so incredibly different from one another, but they each perform criticism at the absolute highest level that I could have imagined,” Emre said in her closing remarks. “I think both that difference and the astonishing nature of their performances has made me at least a much more catholic thinker about what it is to work as a critic or to do criticism, especially in a convivial, collaborative or conversational way.”

“The Critics and Her Publics” series has also been released as a podcast through the New York Review of Books, beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

“These are incredible people that we are bringing [to the series], and the Wesleyan student body is one audience,” Emre said. “But it struck me that there were lots of people out there who would want to hear what our guests would have to say, and would want to see how our guests’ minds worked in their encounter with these literary or artistic or musical objects that we were giving them.”

As of the publication of this article, six episodes of the series are currently available on the Review’s website. There will be a further five episodes uploaded over the next several months.

“I’ve loved being a part of putting together The Critic and Her Publics series and getting the opportunity to meet and learn from such gifted writers,” Kim-Frank Fellow in Creative Writing Oliver Egger ’23 wrote in an email to The Argus. “The series inspired me as a recent graduate to see the range of possibilities for becoming a writer and a critic in the world today. As an English major, I often felt that the only path forward was one in academia (which I was also told had no jobs), but this series showed tangible examples of people on paths outside of the academy who too were engaging with the world in intellectually rigorous and creative ways.”

While the Shapiro Center has ended its programming for this year, they are in the process of planning for the 2024–25 academic year. Along with its series of guest speakers, the Center is hosting a number of classes in creative writing, criticism, and journalism, the last of which will be taught by new Koeppel Fellow Andrew Leland. From 2013 to 2019, Leland hosted and produced The Organist, an arts and culture podcast, for KCRW. He has also been an editor at The Believer since 2003, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, among others.

Rose Chen can be reached at rchen@wesleyan.edu.

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