Alice Truax

BA, Vassar College. MA, Middlebury College. Editor at The New Yorker, 1992-2002; book editor, 2001-present. Book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Vogue, and The New York Review of Books. Edited books include Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Aftermath by Joel Meyerowitz, The Surrender by Toni Bentley, The End of Your Life Book Club by William Schwalbe, Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, and The Shadow in the Garden by James Atlas. SLC, 2004–

Undergraduate Courses 2023-2024


A Question of Character: The Art of the Profile

Open, Seminar—Spring

Any writer who tries to capture the likeness of another—whether in biography, history, journalism, or art criticism—must face certain questions. What makes a good profile? What is the power dynamic between subject and writer? How does a subject’s place in the world determine the parameters of what may be written about him/her/them? To what extent is any portrait also a self-portrait? And how can the complexities of a personality be captured in several thousand—or even several hundred—words? In this course, we will tackle the various challenges of profile writing, such as choosing a good subject, interviewing, plotting, obtaining and telescoping biographical information, and defining the role of place in the portrait. Students will be expected to share their own work, identify what they admire or despise in other writers’ characterizations, and learn to read closely many recognized practitioners of the genre. We will also turn to shorter forms of writing—personal sketches, brief reported pieces, physical descriptions—to further illuminate what we mean when we talk about “identity” and “character.” The goal of this course is less to teach the art of profile writing than to become better readers and writers generally.


Previous Courses

MFA Writing

Nonfiction Craft: Cultural Criticism: A Conversation Between Readers and Writers


We grow as writers by responding to the work of others. George Bernard Shaw was a theatre critic before he was a playwright. Dave Eggers was a reviewer before he was a novelist and memoirist. This nonfiction craft class will explore the role that opinion plays in the arts and allow you to try your hand at several forms of writing—the critical essay, the short reported piece, the online review—that may be new to you. We will also be looking at how technology is changing the shape of opinion, criticism, and recommendation—and asking the following sorts of questions: How important is expertise when one is passing judgment on something? What is the role of "voice" in criticism? How does the medium (magazine, television, blog) affect the message? Does everyone’s opinion matter? No familiarity with any of the aforementioned is necessary for this class! Its primary purpose is to unleash your Inner Cultural Critic by encouraging a lively exchange of ideas, honing your writing skills, and helping you find your voice—both in the classroom and on the page!