Tag Archive for Lisa Cohen

5 Faculty Receive Endowed Professorships

In recognition of their career achievements, five faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1:

Stephen Angle, professor of philosophy and East Asian studies, is receiving the Mansfield Freeman Professorship in East Asian Studies, established in 1986.

Lisa Cohen, associate professor of English, is receiving the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Chair. The Bennet Chair, endowed in 2007, is awarded for a five-year term to a newly tenured associate professor exhibiting exceptional achievement and evidence of future promise.

Andrew Curran, professor of French and outgoing Dean of Arts and Humanities, is receiving the William Armstrong Professorship of the Humanities, established in 1921.

Lori Gruen, professor of philosophy, environmental studies, and feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is receiving the William Griffin Professorship of Philosophy, established in 1885.

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and outgoing Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and director of technology initiatives, is receiving the Fisk Professorship of Natural Science, established in 1839.

Cohen, Hornstein, Nakamura, Shusterman Awarded Tenure

Newly tenured faculty are, from left, Lisa Cohen, Abigail Hornstein, Miri Nakamura and Anna Shusterman.

Newly tenured faculty are, from left, Lisa Cohen, Abigail Hornstein, Miri Nakamura and Anna Shusterman.

The Board of Trustees recently conferred tenure to four Wesleyan faculty. Their promotions take effect July 1.

They are: Lisa Cohen, associate professor of English; Abigail Hornstein, associate professor of economics; Miri Nakamura, associate professor of Asian languages and literatures; and Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology. Other tenure announcements may be released after the Board’s May meeting.

“Please join us in congratulating them on their impressive records of accomplishment,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth.

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching are below:

Lisa Cohen joined the English Department’s creative writing faculty in Fall 2007. Her courses are focused on nonfiction writing, the literature of fact, modernism, and gender and sexuality studies. She has published a wide range of essays and the critically acclaimed book, All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2012). In this work, she presents the biographies of three 20th-century women whose significance in modernist culture in England and the United States is equaled only by their absence from previous historical investigations. Critics have widely recognized the stylistic achievement of her writing, as well as the innovations of her archival project and her reframing of the genre of biography.

Abigail Hornstein teaches courses in a variety of areas, including corporate finance, investment finance, and econometrics. She has a particular interest in multinational strategy and China, and her work addresses such questions as how corporate characteristics affect the quality of corporate capital budgeting decisions, and how corporate and country-level governance mechanisms affect both foreign direct investment in China and the stock listing patterns abroad of Chinese firms.

Miri Nakamura teaches courses on literary and filmic approaches to Japanese modernity. More particularly, she works on Japanese literature from the Meiji era to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 – with a focus on fantastic fiction, including robot literature and gender theory. In her forthcoming book, Monstrous Bodies: The Rise of the Uncanny in Modern Japan, she brings methodologies from literary studies, cultural history, and critical theory to bear on understanding the link between monstrosity and femininity in the modern Japanese imagination.

Anna Shusterman offers courses in developmental psychology and on relations between language and thought. Always interested in building bridges between laboratory-based findings and real-world interventions, she focuses on the cognitive development of young children and that of populations with varied linguistic backgrounds. Her research has shown multiple ways that humans become more effective at spatial and numerical reasoning once they master the relevant language, such as “left” and “right” in the domain of space or the natural numbers in the domain of mathematics.

Cohen’s All We Know Shortlisted for PEN Award

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English, was recently shortlisted for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography for her book, All We Know: Three Lives.

For more than 50 years, the PEN awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation and drama. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN will confer 16 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes in 2013, awarding nearly $150,000 to writers, editors and translators.

The final winners and runners-up will be announced later this summer and will be honored at the 2013 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on Oct. 21 at CUNY Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium in New York, N.Y.

“We at PEN are grateful for the work writers and scholars like Professor Cohen are doing to advance the study and appreciation of literature,” said Cameron Langford of the Membership, Literary Awards and Writers’ Fund at PEN American Center.

Cohen’s book also was nominated for a 2012 inaugural Plutarch Award for “best biography of the year” and was named a National Book Critics Circle Finalist.

Cohen’s Book Nominated for “Best Biography of the Year”

A book written by Assistant Professor of English Lisa Cohen was honored by the Biographers International Organization on April 22. Her book, All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) was nominated for a 2012 inaugural Plutarch Award for “best biography of the year.”

Named after the famous Ancient Greek biographer, the prize aims to be the genre’s equivalent of the Oscar, in that the winner will be determined by secret ballot from a list of nominees selected by a committee of distinguished members of the craft. The BIO nominated 10 books for the award.

The Plutarch Award will be presented at a gala ceremony in New York City on May 18.

Cohen’s Book Named a National Book Critics Circle Finalist

Book by Lisa Cohen.

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) named Assistant Professor of English Lisa Cohen’s book, All We Know: Three Lives, a “2012 Finalist” in the biography category. Founded in 1974 in New York City, the NBCC is the sole award bestowed by working critics and book-review editors.

A finalists’ reading will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium. Winners of the National Book Critics Circle book awards will be announced on Feb. 28.

In All We Know: Three Lives, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Cohen revives the forgotten lives of three women. Esther Murphy, an heiress whose conversation was renowned for its brilliance; Madge Garland, a pioneering fashion editor; and Mercedes de Acosta, a collector and “quintessential fan,” had much in common: as lesbians and as women perceived to be failures. Cohen’s work rescues their reputations and confronts the reader with a fundamental question of biography: whose lives do we choose to remember, and why?


Cohen’s Book Named Top, Most Notable in 2012 by Publishers Weekly, NYT

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Publishers Weekly named Assistant Professor of English Lisa Cohen’s book, All We Know: Three Lives, as one of the “Best Books of 2012.” In All We KnowPublishers Weekly says “Cohen … fully delineates the conventional biographical matters of ancestry, parents, schooling, marriages, affairs, friendships, breakups, work, and death. This well-researched, gossipy, informative, and entertaining biographical triptych is also a thoughtful, three-part inquiry into the meaning of failure, style, and sexual identity.”

The New York Times also named the book one of the “100 Notable books of 2012.” In a book review, the NYT says “Cohen’s own idiosyncratic hybrid doesn’t disappoint. She builds a rich picture of a lost world — and three women who dared to inhabit it on their own terms.”


5 Questions With . . . Lisa Cohen on Teaching and Writing

Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English. (Photo by Vanessa Haney)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask “5 Questions” of Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English and faculty fellow in the Center for the Humanities. Cohen is the author of All We Know: Three Lives, an engrossing biographical triptych about three complicated, glamorous, independent, and influential women of the last century (published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in July 2012).

In a review of her new book in Businessweek, Craig Seligman writes:
“ ‘
All We Know’ is really much more about reflecting on lives … than about chronicling them. Experimental biography, if such a genre can be said to exist, is a high-wire act. Cohen never loses her balance.”

Q: What courses have you taught at Wesleyan and which have you enjoyed teaching the most?

A:  I teach the sequence of nonfiction workshops in the English Department: Techniques of Nonfiction, Intermediate Nonfiction Workshop, and Advanced Nonfiction Workshop. I also teach a Special Topics course on biographical writing, and courses such as Stein and Woolf, and Fictions of Consumption. This fall at the Center for the Humanities,  I will offer a course that engages with the semester’s theme of “Temporality.”

It’s impossible for me to say which I’ve enjoyed teaching the most. I love teaching Wesleyan students—and partly because of them, every time I teach “the same” course it’s a new experience. But the workshops also vary every year because I assign different texts and because every semester we bring different, exciting writers to campus. Alison Bechdel, Lisa Jarnot, and Bernard Cooper are three of the several who will be giving readings and meeting with students this fall.

Q: What do you believe about writing that you have shared with your students?

A: Revise!
Read writing that inspires and challenges you.

Write about what really matters to you and do it so well that it is compelling to others.

Keep editing your work.
Be strict with yourself, but patient with your own process.

Q: How did you decide to write about the lives of these three separate women—Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland—in your new book?

A: I started writing a book about Madge Garland and spent several years doing archival research and conducting interviews about her life. But at a certain point it became clear to me that while I could write a whole book about her, such a book would, ironically, not quite do her justice. Her life was one of accomplishment, but a lot of what she had done was hard to pin down. The same was true for my other subjects. I wanted to say something bigger about the milieu in which Madge had moved, to show what certain women’s lives looked like in the 20th century, and to emphasize previously unseen connections—and the often intangible work of making connections among people, which was work they had all done. In the meantime, I had written a magazine profile of Mercedes de Acosta and was hearing about Esther Murphy from the writer Sybille Bedford (whom I had first met because I interviewed her about Madge Garland).

Cohen Author of All We Know: Three Lives

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English, is the author of All We Know: Three Lives, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in July 2012. The book is 448 pages and includes 52 illustrations and notes.

In All We Know, Cohen describes three women’s glamorous choices, complicated failures, and controversial personal lives with lyricism and empathy.

Esther Murphy was a brilliant New York intellectual who dazzled friends and strangers with an unstoppable flow of conversation. But she never finished the books she was contracted to write—a painful failure and yet a kind of achievement.

The quintessential fan, Mercedes de Acosta had intimate friendships with the legendary actresses and dancers of the twentieth century. Her ephemeral legacy lies in the thousands of objects she collected to preserve the memory of those performers and to honor the feelings they inspired.

An icon of haute couture and a fashion editor of British Vogue, Madge Garland held bracing views on dress that drew on her feminism, her ideas about modernity, and her love of women. Existing both vividly and invisibly at the center of cultural life, she—like Murphy and de Acosta—is now almost completely forgotten.

At once a series of intimate portraits and a startling investigation into style, celebrity, sexuality, and the genre of biography itself, All We Know explores a hidden history of modernism and pays tribute to three compelling lives.

For more information on the book and to read book excerpts and reviews, go here.

Cohen’s New Book Reviewed in The New Yorker

A new book by Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English, was given an enthusiastic early review in The New Yorker’s book blog on March 12. Her book, All We Know, will be published in July 2012.

“Cohen’s remarkable, sui generis study about three modernist figures—Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland, for many years a fashion editor at British Vogue—is, in part, about dread, which is to say failure and fear of self-exposure, and how we accommodate our lives to suit the various shadows splashed by the sun of occasional triumph…

By servicing Murphy and, in the book’s shattering final section about Madge Garland, a fashion star who reimagined her life out of the detritus of family neglect, English snobbism, and sartorial surface, Cohen services her subjects while merging and emerging from them. She extends them every loving courtesy, such as the human desire to identify with other humans, while exercising her right as a major writer: to make of her subjects and, to a certain degree, herself, what she will.”

Cohen Organizes Reading of Fiction, Memoir Writer Sybille Bedford

In honor of the centennial of the writer Sybille Bedford, and in conjunction with The Paris Review, Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English, organized an evening of readings of her work on March 24 in New York City. Cohen writes about Bedford in The Paris Review. Cohen’s writing has appeared in Fashion TheoryBookforumPloughsharesThe Boston Review, and other journals and anthologies. Her book, All We Know—portraits of the neglected modernist figures Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland—will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2012.

Sybille Bedford (1911-2006) was one of the great 20th-century stylists of the English language.