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Writing Friendly Criticism in a Partisan Age


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

Yale historian Paul Sabin will discuss the art and process behind persuasive critical writing for a wide public audience. Keying off his guest essay in the New York Times, Sabin will reflect on how he drew lessons from history relevant to current debates over infrastructure and the environment, and on the steps necessary to translate a book into a 1,000-word essay. Sabin also will consider the challenge for scholarly writers of navigating our fraught partisan times, including telling stories that don’t fit easily into prevailing narratives. How does a writer offer constructive criticism without getting pulled into the service of hostile ideological agendas? How does a writer craft distinct messages for quite different audiences at the same time?

About the Columbia Public Writing Series

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. 

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. 

This event will be held online. For questions, please contact sps-events [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu (sps-events[at]columbia[dot]edu).