A new residency will bring a trio of notable writers to Wesleyan for the 2022-23 academic year as the University seeks to augment its already strong writing programs.
Mahogany L. Browne, poet, curator and author of “Black Girl Magic”; Merve Emre, Oxford professor and New York critic; and Yuri Herrera, an acclaimed Mexican novelist and Tulane professor, will be the first to join the new Shapiro-Silverberg Distinguished Writers in Residence program.
“The Shapiro-Silverberg program will bring writers to campus whose work is already impacting a variety of audiences around the world. The initiative builds on a long history of welcoming distinguished authors to Wesleyan and underscores the institution’s embrace of creativity across disciplines and genres. We look forward to the sparks that will fly! said ’78 President Michael Roth.
“These authors remind us of the vitality and relevance of literature beyond our classrooms, and they will hopefully inspire our students to consider pursuing multifaceted careers in the literary arts – careers that merge journalism and scholarship, a commitment to creating with a commitment to social justice,” said Hirsh Sawhney, Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Chair.
Authors will teach at least one course and create another artistic experience for the campus community, which could include mounting a performance, offering master classes, or hosting an exhibition, among other ideas. “We give them the platform to tell us what kind of curriculum they want to build,” said Roger Mathew Grant, dean of the Arts and Humanities division.
The program is designed to create meaningful opportunities for student engagement while providing time and support for resident creative work. “I think the most important thing is that we bring our existing faculty and students together with these distinguished writers to increase the Shapiro Center’s large community of writers,” Grant said.
The Campus Writing Initiatives Committee, including Grant (Chair), Amy Bloom, Sonali Chakravarti, John Murillo, María Ospina, Danielle Vogel, Ao Wang, and Stephanie Weiner, recommended writers for consideration and advised on program format . “This is a committee brought together across the University that cares deeply about language, writing, and our students,” said Bloom, a bestselling author who will lead the Shapiro Center next year. .
Each distinguished writer is paired with a faculty member to facilitate projects, programming, and community connections during residency. “The Distinguished Writers’ areas of expertise align with those of the current faculty and complement our staff in areas that we are truly excited to develop, including creative writing in Spanish, which aligns with the work of María Ospina; and Poetry, which captures the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding poets in our faculty, including John Murillo and Danielle Vogel. Many of our faculty already write for the public, so we’re excited to be able to continue growing in this space,” Grant said.
Grant sees this as a chance to augment a discipline already seen as one of Wesleyan’s current strengths. Wesleyan’s writing workshops teach students how to offer critical feedback to their peers in a rigorous yet encouraging way, and also how to accept critical feedback and then use it to improve their work. Students have the opportunity to connect with notable writers who come to teach for a semester or offer masterclasses, a decade-old grassroots initiative. “We want to continue to provide unique, intimate and provocative opportunities for students to spend time with extraordinary writers,” Bloom said.
Under Bloom’s leadership, the Shapiro Center will continue to host Charles Barber, Writer-in-Residence of the College of Letters, and novelist Douglas Arthur Martin, who will lead the Center’s Writer’s Series. Next year, the university will also host award-winning novelist Maaza Mengiste, who recently received a Guggenheim Fellowship. “We already have writers on the faculty who are doing amazing things,” Grant said. “We are creating a broad and inclusive writing community spanning different modalities, languages, and subject areas.”
One of the goals of the program is not only to create better writers, but also to make students more generous and empathetic communicators, Sawhney said.
“We humans are storytelling creatures, and creative writing classes help us figure out what stories we need to tell about the world, or about ourselves, and how we can tell those stories more effectively” , Sawhney said. “They demonstrate the magic of learning and growing collaboratively, not just on your own. Writing lessons help students learn patience, perseverance, and discipline. They familiarize them with the nature of process-oriented writing and provide tools for students to develop their own systems and processes to tackle large projects of all kinds. The skills students develop in creative writing courses serve them in all other areas of college and throughout their adult lives.
The program was made possible by the generous support of John Shapiro ’74 and Shonni Silverberg ’76.
Shapiro-Silverberg Distinguished Writer Bios
Mahogany L. Browne is the executive director of JustMedia, a media literacy initiative designed to support the grassroots work of criminal justice leaders and community members. This position is informed by her career as a writer, organizer and educator. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of recent books: Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby, & Black Girl Magic. Browne is the founder of the diverse enlightened initiative, Woke Baby Book Fair; and is excited about her latest collection of poetry. I Remember Death By Its Closeness to What I Love is a book-length poem responding to the impact of mass incarceration on women and children. She is based in Brooklyn and is the first-ever Poet-in-Residence at Lincoln Center.
Merve Emre is Associate Professor of English at the University of Oxford. She earned a BA from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Yale. She is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), The Ferrante Letters (New York: Columbia University Press, 2019) and The Personality Brokers (Doubleday: New York, 2018), which was selected as one of the best books of 2018 by The New York Times, The Economist, NPR, CBC and The Spectator, and informs CNN/HBO Max’s feature-length documentary Persona. She is the editor of Once and Future Feminist (Cambridge: MIT, 2018), The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Liveright, 2021) and The Norton Modern Library Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Norton, 2021). She is completing a book titled Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities (under contract to University of Chicago Press) and writing a book called Love and Other Useless Pursuits (under contract to Doubleday US/Harper Collins UK). She is a contributor to the New Yorker. His essays and reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic and London Review of Books to American Literature, American Literary History and Modernism/modernity. In 2019, she received a Philip Leverhulme award. In 2021, she received the Robert B. Silvers Award for Literary Criticism and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Criticism by the National Book Critics Circle. Her work has been supported by the Whiting Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Leverhulme Trust, the Human Sciences Research Council of Quebec, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, where she was a 2021 Fellow- 22. . In 2022, she is one of the judges of the International Booker Prize.
Born in Actopan, Mexico, in 1970, Youri Herrera studied politics in Mexico, creative writing in El Paso, and earned his doctorate in literature at Berkeley. His first forthcoming novel in English, Signs Preceding the End of the World, was published to critical acclaim in 2015 and included in numerous Best-of-Year lists, including The Guardian’s Best Fiction and NBC News’s Ten Great Latino. Books. to win the 2016 Best Translated Book Award. He currently teaches at Tulane University, New Orleans.