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Reading Like a WriterHighlightsVirtual

Michael Cunningham headshot in black and white.

Friday, Dec 10, 2021Friday, Dec 17, 2021Monday, Dec 20, 2021

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST

Literature is made up of the humblest materials you can imagine: ink, paper, and the words in the dictionary. How, then, using only those three tools, did great writers manage to create great works of art? How, for example, did Virginia Woolf page through the dictionary and write To the Lighthouse, and Toni Morrison, using essentially the same dictionary, write Beloved? Using six very different stories, we’ll talk about the various elements of craft—character, structure, and voice, to name three—writers employ to produce compelling narratives, whether it’s To the Lighthouse, Beloved, or any other significant story. Then, we’ll discuss how we can convey these craft decisions to students. Most of our students will not grow up to be writers. But most, we hope, will grow up to be readers. A fundamental understanding of how fiction works, and the many different ways in which it can work, can only help students become more incisive, generous, and discerning readers.

This is a three-session master class. In the first two sessions, teachers learn from the master. In the third, participants have a rare and valuable opportunity to exchange ideas with other brilliant teachers. Participants are assigned a small amount of homework to prepare for each session.

Michael Cunningham, author and Yale University

Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours, By Nightfall, and The Snow Queen, as well as a short story collection, A Wild Swan and Other Tales, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The Hours won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award, and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Cunningham’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, the Paris Review, and other publications. A recipient of National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim, and Whiting Foundation fellowships, he is a Senior Lecturer in English at Yale University.

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