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Distinguished writers discuss the craft and strategy of writing to change minds—and the world.

In each session, renowned writers join academic leaders from across the university in spirited conversation to examine the art of writing for public audiences. From sentence-level analyses of craft, to wider discussions of how a specific piece of writing addresses critical issues of the day, such as incarceration, climate change, and refugee crises, the sessions share tactics and tools to produce compelling and persuasive storytelling. As a result, participants learn to think like professional writers—and to build specific skills necessary for their work to reach national and international audiences. 

This fall, the series begins October 21 with Eric Hayot on "A Series of Introductions: Selected Excerpts from Public Writers,” to be followed on October 28 with Emily Bazelon, who will discuss her New York Times Magazine article, “I Write About the Law. But Could I Really Help Free a Prisoner?” On November 11 Columbia Journalism School Professor Jelani Cobb joins the series with an examination of his New Yorker article on attorney Derrick Bell, “The Man Behind Critical Race Theory,” and on December 8, Yale Professor Paul Sabin will explore the writing techniques used in his New York Times op-ed, “How Liberals Can Attack From the Left—and Win.” On December 13, University of Southern California Professor Viet Thanh Nguyen analyzes his New York Times op-ed, “I Can’t Forget the Lessons of Vietnam. Neither Should You.” Panels will be moderated by a variety of academic leaders at Columbia, including EVP and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Amy Hungerford; Columbia Law School Professor Bernard Harcourt; Dean of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Frederick C. Harris; and Dean of Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Sarah Cole. 

All members of the Columbia community are welcome; Columbia email required for registration. To benefit most from each event, read the featured article in advance, linked on the website, or available upon request. For questions, please contact sps-events [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu.

Past Events

A Series of Introductions: Selected Excerpts from Public Writers

Thursday, October 21  |   5:30–6:45 p.m. ET

Featuring Eric Hayot, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies, College of the Liberal Arts, Penn State University 

Moderated by Sarah Cole, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Dean of Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University

The Exoneration of Yutico Briley

Thursday, October 28  |  5:30–6:45 p.m. ET

Featuring Emily Bazelon, Staff Writer, The New York Times Magazine; Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law, Yale Law School

Moderated by Amy Hungerford, Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Ruth Fulton Benedict Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University; and Bernard Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, Columbia Law School

Critical Race Theory and Writing for the General Reader 

Thursday, November 18  |  7:00–8:00 p.m. ET

Featuring Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia Journalism School 

Moderated by Amy Hungerford, Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Ruth Fulton Benedict Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University; and Fredrick C. Harris, Professor of Political Science; Dean of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University

Writing Friendly Criticism in a Partisan Age

Wednesday, December 8  |  7:00–8:00 p.m. ET

Featuring Paul Sabin, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University

Moderated by Nicole Wallack, Director of the Undergraduate Writing Program; Senior Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

It Matters Now: Emergencies and Public Writing

Monday, December 13  |  5:30–6:45 p.m. ET

Featuring Viet Thanh Nguyen, University Professor; Aerol Arnold Chair of English; and Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature, University of Southern California

Moderated by Denise Cruz, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University; and Sue Mendelsohn, Director of the Writing Center; Associate Director of First Year Writing, Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University