Past Events

  • March 29, 2022, 11am-12:30pm

    The “short book” is now a trend in academia and beyond.  New series devoted to this form publish monographs or long essays that are about a third the length of a traditional book, and academic and trade presses alike advertise these new, concise presentations as increasing “accessibility” and circulation. It makes sense, given the insistent demands most of us face for our attention. But the short book has an aesthetic and a function all its own. This panel will look at the short book on its own terms, asking what brevity offers both writers and readers that longer, more traditional books may not. We will also ask what the short book could offer: how it is a form that we can continue to develop, what role concision (and accessibility) plays in our scholarship, and how the shorter monograph can contribute to the academic profiles of those who seek tenure and promotion. We will be joined by a combination of publishers, editors, and writers who work in this area, and brief presentations from our panelists will be followed by a general Q&A


    • Monica Huerta, Assistant professor of English and American Studies, Princeton University; Series Editor of Writing Matters at Duke University Press
    • Alison Kinney, Assistant Professor of Writing, The New School
    • Sarah Mesle, USC Associate Professor (Teaching) of Writing; Senior Editor at Large, Los Angeles Review of Books, and the editor of LARB channel Avidly and the NYU short book series Avidly Reads
    • Christopher Schaberg, Dorothy Harrell Brown Distinguished Professor of English and Director of the Center for Editing and Publishing, Loyola University New Orleans; Editor, Object Lessons

    Moderated by Emily Hodgson Anderson, Professor of English and College Dean of Undergraduate Education, and David Ulin, Associate Professor of the Practice of English.

  • November 16, 2021, 12pm-1pm | RECORDING

    Definitions of the essay are vague and various. It may be formal or informal; lyrical or critical, long or short; personal or not at all. Aldous Huxley described it as “a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything,” and Michel de Montaigne claimed the term for his writings, linking up his literary “attempts,” or essais, to the French origins of the word. To essay, at its most etymological, is “to try.”  In this event, we will examine the current popularity and parameters of this form.  How might academics incorporate essayistic strategies into scholarly repertoires, and what venues foster these “attempts”? What aesthetic guidelines, if any, exist for a form that is by definition so capacious? How does the literary essay differ from a journal article designed for peer review? We will be joined again in our discussion by practitioners and editors, in a conversation followed by group Q&A.


    • Geoff Dyer, author and USC writer in residence
    • Lynell George, L.A. based journalist and essayist
    • José Vadi, poet, playwright, and essayist

    Moderated by Emily Hodgson Anderson, Professor of English and College Dean of Undergraduate Education, and David Ulin, Associate Professor of the Practice of English.

  • September 28, 2021, 11am-12:30pm  |  RECORDING

    For many academics, the book review can offer an opportunity to engage in public discourse, as well as a way to learn more about current state of thinking in one’s field. Successful book reviews, however, are different than academic criticism; they must function as lyrical essays in their own right while also presenting an assessment of the work at hand on a variety of levels: criticism and service journalism, as it were. It is a form in which there is no formal training; most reviewers figure it out as they go along. This event will seek to jump-start that process by gathering book review editors and practiced reviewers to address questions that include: What are the qualities of a successful book review? How does the book review in a specialized academic journal compare to a review in a general interest publication? What are the responsibilities of the reviewer in terms of dealing with lay readers? How are book reviews solicited or placed?  Our invited guests will share remarks for the first half of the event and devote the remaining time to collaborative Q&A. Registration before the event is required. Attendants outside of USC are welcome.


    • Colin Burrow, Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, and Contributor, London Review of Books
    • Anita Felicelli, Author and Contributor, Los Angeles Review of Books
    • Boris Kachka, Books Editor, the Los Angeles Times
    • Danzy Senna, Associate Professor of English, USC
    • James Yeh, Reviews Editor, The Believer

    Moderated by Emily Hodgson Anderson, Professor of English and College Dean of Undergraduate Education, and David Ulin, Associate Professor of the Practice of English

  • April 14, 2021, 9am-10:30am  |  RECORDING

    The final event in our first annual series “On Writing,” will feature a conversation between two exceptional writers: USC’s Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts and Bluets, among many other titles, and novelist and journalist Hari Kunzru, author most recently of Red Pill. The discussion will focus on Kunzru’s new book, both authors’ experiments with genre, and their thoughts on the role and responsibility of the writer—in the academy and beyond.


    Maggie Nelson, Professor of English at USC and author of The Argonauts and Bluets, among many other titles. She has been described as a genre-busting writer defying classification, working in autobiography, art criticism, theory, scholarship, and poetry. Nelson has been the recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, a 2012 Creative Capital Literature Fellowship, a 2011 NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction. Other honors include the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and a 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant.

    Hari Kunzru, Born in London, Hari Kunzru is the author of the novels The Impressionist, Transmission, My Revolutions, Gods Without Men, and White Tears, as well as a short story collection, Noise and a novella, Memory Palace. His newest novel Red Pill was published in September 2020. He is an honorary fellow of Wadham College Oxford, and has received fellowships from the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Academy in Berlin. He is the host of the podcast Into The Zone. He lives in New York City.

  • March 10, 2021, 12pm-1:30pm  |  RECORDING

    Today’s media landscape is increasingly digital, offering writers the chance to experiment with both the composition and the presentation of our work.  This panel discussion will explore the influence and effects of technology on the ways we approach our craft. We will consider a variety of issues: how writing can be presented and enlarged in a digital landscape; the use of the digital as creative space, inspiring forms of composition; and the development of written pieces that are not entirely text-based but also incorporate other media and disciplines. What does writing look like when it involves more than words? The panel will be followed by a group discussion.


    • Robert Hernandez, Professor of Professional Practice (USC Annenberg)
    • M.G. Lord, Associate Professor of the Practice of English (USC)
    • Nooshin Rostami, Adjunct Assistant Professor (USC SCA)
    • Donna Spruijt-Metz, Research Professor of Psychology, USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research (USC Dornsife)
  • February 18, 2021, 10am–11:30am  |  RECORDING

    While the act of writing usually occurs in isolation, the process by which we write is often collaborative, sometimes in unacknowledged ways. What about our process changes if we think of writing as a “team sport?” This panel will address writing as a collaborative act. Panelists will speak on topics including co-authored articles and monographs, writer-editor relationships, and sharing materials in writing groups. This will be followed by a Q&A session in which attendees will have a chance to discuss their own experiences of thinking and writing collaboratively, as well as the advantages and challenges this presents.


    Lorraine Daston, Director Emerita, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin and Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, Harvard University

    Percival Everett, Distinguished Professor of English, University of Southern California and Fiona McCrae, Publisher and Director, Graywolf Press

  • November 4, 2020, 12pm-1:30pm  |  RECORDING

    How can we read our writing with an editor’s eye? What is the nature of the editor/author relationship, and how might it evolve? How can thinking like an editor help us better “pitch” our writing to the readers we hope to reach? In this event, we will hear from editors about how they read and their experience working with authors. We will hear from writers about how editors help them hone and shape their work. Those who work both sides will discuss how their editorial habits influence the writing they do.


    • Sewell Chan (op-ed, LA Times)
    • Deborah Friedell (reviews, London Review of Books)
    • Kim Robinson (University of California Press)
    • Tracy Sherrod (Amistad, HarperCollins)
    • David Ulin (USC, English)
  • October 14, 2020, 12pm-1:30pm  |  RECORDING

    The style of academic writing has evolved greatly in recent years, becoming more personal and stylistic in a variety of ways. In this event, we will discuss the broad range of forms and styles of writing available to us as academics: from so-called “scholarly writing,” to journalistic endeavors, such as reviews and op-eds; to fiction, memoir, and the personal essay. Do we, or do we want to, see lines of influence among these forms? How do they infiltrate or stand in conversation with our academic work? Participants will include colleagues and others who work across these platforms, and the event will be generative, featuring opportunities for attendees to discuss and brainstorm potential work.


    • Leo Braudy (USC, English)
    • Sarah Knott (University of Indiana, History)
    • Josh Kun (USC, Annenberg)
    • Amitava Kumar (Vassar College, English)
    • Karen Tongson (USC, English, Gender & Sexuality Studies, and American Studies & Ethnicity)
  • September 16, 2020, 12pm–1:30pm  |  RECORDING

    What does it mean to have a writing “habit”? Can writing be a practice—like a sport, or a dance? Does it require muscle memory? All writers, after all, are different, and no two writers’ processes are the same. So, what do different “practices” of writing look like, especially during the academic semester, when other pressures can’t but intervene? In this broad-based group conversation, we will address these questions, beginning with a panel discussion featuring a range of colleagues, then moving into a broader discussion among the group. How do you write? We want to know. We also want to think about what comes next – the writing itself. To facilitate, that, attendees will have the opportunity to coordinate with others at this event to develop writing groups.


    • Luis Alfaro (USC, School of Dramatic Arts)
    • Aimee Bender (USC, Creative Writing)
    • Deborah Harkness (USC, History)
    • Viet Nguyen (USC, English and American Studies and Ethnicity)
    • Nayan Shah (USC, American Studies and Ethnicity)

Header image: “Still life with books, vase and water carafe,” Pekka Halonen, 1894

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THH 348
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Director: Daniela Bleichmar
Associate Director: Zach Mann
Assistant Director: Isabella Carr

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