Vinson Cunningham

BA, Hunter College. Staff writer at The New Yorker. Cunningham's essays, reviews, and commentary have appeared in the print and online versions of The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, New York Magazine, The Fader, McSweeney’s, and other outlets. SLC, 2016

Graduate Courses

Writing 2018-2019

Nonfiction Craft: Emersonians and Montaignians: Two Approaches to the Essay

Craft—Fall

When you say that you’d like to start working on an essay,” you’re probably referring to one of two related but distinct forms, each with its own history. There’s the argumentative essay that, here in America, is descended from the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson—developed out loud, in sermons and speeches, for the purpose of persuading (and, just as importantly, entertaining) an audience. Then there’s the more ruminative essayistic tradition that stretches back to Michel de Montaigne and the French Renaissance. In this course, we’ll explore both traditions and play with what we find. We’ll start with classic early American sermons by John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards, as well as Montaigne’s first attempts to map his restless consciousness onto the page, in prose. Then we’ll wind through time, visiting Emerson and Douglass, Didion and Sontag, Dr. King and Zadie Smith. We’ll make work informed by their tendencies and strategies on either side of the essay’s enduring line.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Nonfiction Craft: Writing From the Podium: The Sermonic American Essay

Craft—Fall

The essay, in its American incarnation, is a direct outgrowth of the sermon—developed out loud and for the purpose of persuading (and, just as importantly, entertaining) an audience. Beginning with Winthrop on the boat and Jonathan Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, our nonfiction tradition has been coaxing and argumentative, insistent and not infrequently irritating. The implications of this sermonic heritage can be found in the sentences, styles, voices, and attitudes of writers from Emerson and Douglass to Didion and Sontag. In this course, we will read and discuss sermons and speeches from the likes of Martin Luther King, Gloria Steinem, and Billy Graham, as well as a range of argumentative essays, and make work informed by the tendencies and strategies that we find.

Faculty

Writing from the Podium – The Sermonic American Essay (Nonfiction Craft)

Craft—Fall

The essay, in its American incarnation, is a direct outgrowth of the sermon—developed out loud, and for the purpose of persuading (and, just as importantly, entertaining) an audience. Beginning with Winthrop on the boat and Jonathan Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, our nonfiction tradition has been coaxing and argumentative, insistent, and not infrequently irritating. The implications of this sermonic heritage can be found in the sentences, styles, voices, and attitudes of writers from Emerson and Douglass to Didion and Sontag. In this course, we will read and discuss sermons and speeches from the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Gloria Steinem, and Billy Graham, as well as a range of argumentative essays, and make work informed by the tendencies and strategies that we find.

Faculty