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The Cullman Center Institute for Teachers


Illustration by Gary PanterIllustration by Gary PanterThe Cullman Center Institute for Teachers offers two distinct programs for professional development that give teachers an opportunity to enrich their understanding of the humanities and research in one of the world's great libraries. The Institute is located in The New York Public Library's landmark building on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street at The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

Our Spring Seminars, which last a day, are free. Breakfast and lunch are included.

Summer Seminars last a week. Participants receive a $300 stipend, all required books and materials, a private office with networked computer at the Cullman Center, and breakfast and lunch each day. There is also an opportunity to receive graduate credit through Adams State College. Click here for details.

Space is limited. Any full-time teacher, school librarian, or administrator is welcome to apply; priority is given to public school teachers in the New York metropolitan area.

Special funding for the Cullman Center's Institute for Teachers is generously provided by Helen and Roger Alcaly and the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History.

The Cullman Center is made possible by a generous endowment from Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman in honor of Brooke Russell Astor, with major support provided by Mrs. John L. Weinberg, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Estate of Charles J. Liebman, John and Constance Birkelund, The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, and additional gifts from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Helen and Roger Alcaly, Mel and Lois Tukman, The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, William W. Karatz, Mary Ellen von der Heyden, The Arts and Letters Foundation, Merilee and Roy Bostock, Lybess Sweezy and Ken Miller, and Cullman Center Fellows.


2015 Spring Seminars

The deadline to apply for these seminars has passed.


The First Person: A Creative Writing Workshop with Justin Torres

Friday, February 20, 2015, 9 a.m.
In this workshop, we will examine voice and structure in first-person narratives by Donald Barthelme, Stuart Dybek, Carolyn Ferrell, Janet Frame, Amy Hempel, and Grace Paley. We will consider the difference between the often nostalgic and sometimes unreliable “I” voice that narrates events, and the active, embodied “I” who is a character in the story itself. We'll also see how associative thinking and structural fragmentation affect our understanding of voice and character. Participants Read More ›

Two Ways of Looking at Elizabeth Bishop with Megan Marshall and Kenneth Gross

Thursday, February 26, 2015, 9 a.m.
Elizabeth Bishop was a great poet of memory. She mined her childhood experience in prose, wrote poems from a child’s perspective, and, in retrospective narrative verse, established herself as the Wordsworth of her age. In this seminar, the biographer Megan Marshall and the literary critic Kenneth Gross will combine biographical explication and close reading of texts to explore Bishop’s youth—a period of radical dislocation and loss as well as of self-discovery—and the ways in which Read More ›

A New Perspective on the Declaration of Independence with Steven Pincus

Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 9 a.m.
Why was it that the outbreak of the American Revolution and the creation of British India were simultaneous events involving many of the same people? What happens if we think about American independence not as the pivotal moment in American history but as part of a global imperial struggle involving not just the British Empire but the Spanish and French Empires as well? This seminar considers the Declaration of Independence and other key historical documents from this imperial perspective. Read More ›

Drop Dead: The Fiscal Crisis of 1975 and the Transformation of New York City with Kim Phillips-Fein

Friday, March 13, 2015, 9 a.m.
In 1975, the largest city in the United States nearly declared bankruptcy. The financial collapse of New York—the home of Wall Street—raised large political questions. Could its economic problems be fixed? Were its generous public services possible in a recession? Was its postwar liberalism tenable? The fiscal crisis led to budget cuts that affected most of the city’s public institutions and set off a wave of protests. Although protesters sometimes successfully shaped how the cuts happened, they couldn’t resist larger changes as the city became increasingly oriented toward private Read More ›

Using Art to Study History: Medieval Europe with Sara Lipton

Friday, March 27, 2015, 9 a.m.
History is typically studied through texts, yet for much of human history the majority of people could not read or write. Recognizing this effective illiteracy, and spurred by the “image explosion” brought on by technological change in the 20th-21st centuries, historians have begun to turn to visual images and material objects to learn about the past. In this seminar we will explore one of the most image-oriented of all historical periods – medieval Europe – through the lens of its artworks. We’ll look at a range of medieval images and objects, and will discuss how to extract Read More ›

King Lear: Catastrophe as a Metaphor with Gerard Passannante

Monday, April 6, 2015, 9 a.m.
In the opening scene of King Lear, Lear asks his youngest daughter what she would add to her sisters’ professions of love for him. Cordelia responds, “Nothing.” What follows from this seemingly innocent statement is a shocking display of cruelty. Lear’s “dragon,” as he calls it, is unleashed, and Cordelia is banished. Why was Lear so upset? William Hazlitt compared Lear’s state of mind to a “solid promontory pushed from its basis by the force of an earthquake.” This seminar considers the role of natural catastrophe in framing questions about human agency and knowledge. We Read More ›

Gang Warfare in Central America with Carlos Dada

Friday, April 10, 2015, 9 a.m.
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world. This seminar will explore connections among the following events: El Salvador’s civil war between 1980 and 1992; the wartime exodus of families to California; young boys joining gangs in Los Angeles; U.S. deportation of gang members back to El Salvador; the beginning of violent gang warfare in El Salvador. The seminar will examine photographs, videos, and reportage to explore the causes of this violence and its tragic consequences, particularly for children who fled their native countries last summer seeking haven in the Read More ›

Time Travel: Writing Memory and the Past with Ayana Mathis

Friday, April 24, 2015, 9 a.m.
Backstory has become a dirty word in fiction workshops. At best it's something to be gotten out of the way quickly; at worst it's considered a serious drag on the prose. But this workshop explores backstory as a rich and essential tool. We will examine short fiction by Mavis Gallant, James Salter, and others to see how these writers successfully use memory and the past. Participants will be given brief writing exercises.Read More ›

Finding a Voice: A Creative Writing Workshop with Jordi Puntí

Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 9 a.m.
The German comedian Karl Valentin famously remarked, “Everything has already been said, but not yet by everyone.” New writers too often imitate or over-reach, as they search for a balance between tradition and a way of writing that is fresh and personal. Finding a “voice,” a distinctive means of expression, is a major achievement, but with each new project, the search begins again. In this workshop, we will consider “voice” in a number of writers – George Saunders, Junot Diaz, Alice Munro, Alberto Bolaño – and explore techniques to help participants find their own.Read More ›

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