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The Cullman Center Institute for Teachers


The Cullman Center Institute for Teachers offers two distinct programs for professional development that give teachers an opportunity to enrich their understanding of history and literature and to learn about doing 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.  

The Cullman Center Spring and Summer Seminars are limited to 15 participants each. All educators are welcome to apply; but we give priority to New York City public middle and high school English and history teachers, librarians and administrators.


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011
9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Flaws in the Texture of Life: Feeling, Imagery, and Weirdness in the Short Story with Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill, one of America’s master short story writers, leads a seminar on four brilliant stories: "The 5:48," by John Cheever; "Vandals," by Alice Munro; "Everything That Rises Must Converge," by Flannery O'Connor; and "The End of FIRPO in the World," by George Saunders. The class will discuss each work's apparent theme, style, and representation of character, and will pay special attention to the ways writers use words to create non-verbal experience through which readers sense the hidden and irrational inner life of characters and stories. In the afternoon, teachers will share strategies for teaching the short story and discuss ways to bring the day’s material into the classroom.

The deadline to apply has passed. Please check back for our Spring 2012 seminars announcement.


We offer three week-long courses led by outstanding creative writers and scholars who were or are fellows at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. During each seminar week teachers also learn about the extraordinary resources of the Library, and are given time to do their own writing and research. Summer Seminars begin at 9am and end at 5pm.

If you attended a Summer Seminar in 2008 or before, you are eligible to apply again. The deadline to apply is Monday April 11, 2011.

Amenities provided for Summer Seminar participants include:

  • A $300 stipend
  • All required books and course materials
  • A private office with networked computer
  • The possibility for graduate credit (via  Adams College)
  • Breakfasts and lunches

The deadline to apply has passed. Please check back in the fall for our Spring 2012 seminars.

Setting Fiction in the Past: A Creative Writing Workshop
with Maile Chapman
July 11 - July 15, 2011

Research offers abundant material for writers of historical fiction; one of the challenges lies in selecting precise details that help the story seems natural and unforced. We will examine passages by Saul Bellow, E.L. Doctorow, John Dos Passos, Paule Marshall, Claire Messud, Philip Roth, Colm Tóibín, Edith Wharton, and others, paying attention to the ways in which the writers accomplish this fictional sleight of hand. During the week, participants will complete short exercises before composing their own sketches set in historical New York.

Maile Chapman, a current Cullman Center Fellow, is the author of the novel Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto, which was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award in England.

The Reporter and the Story: A Workshop in Journalism
with Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
July 18 – July 22, 2011

Reporting usually connotes information-gathering—the seeking-out of knowledge from sources in the outside world. Yet reporting inevitably involves the writer’s emotional and sensory apprehension as well. We will explore the ways in which writers use these less-understood and complicated tools, particularly in the rendering of place. Writing by James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, and others will guide us through this minefield.  Participants will draw upon their own emotional experience in addition to conventional fact-finding to write a short piece about a place.   

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
, a past Fellow of the Cullman Center and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, is the author of Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Henry IV, Part I; and The Merchant of Venice
with Andrew McConnell Stott
July 25 – 29, 2011

What’s so funny about Hamlet? Why is Falstaff tragic? What does The Merchant of Venice have to tell us about history? We will look at three of Shakespeare’s plays – a tragedy, a history, and a comedy – and examine how the playwright manipulates dramatic conventions. The course will take a dynamic approach: we will act out scenes, turn them upside down, and play them against the grain.

Andrew McConnell Stott teaches English at the University at Buffalo. A former stand-up comic, he is the author of Comedy and The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness and the Story of Britain’s Greatest Comedian. He received a 2010 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.


The application deadline for the Spring Seminars has passed. Please check back in the Fall for our Spring 2012 series.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Age of Crusades
Sara Lipton
Thursday, February 10
This seminar explores changing relations among Jews, Christians, and Muslims during the era of the Christian Crusades (1096-1291). With the help of medieval primary sources, we will examine the rise of European anti-Semitism and the idea of the Holy War, and also consider evidence of cross-cultural
cooperation and even friendship.
Sara Lipton teaches medieval history at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. She is the author of Images of Intolerance and often writes about relations among religions.

Composing Poems from Historic Documents
Geoffrey Brock
Thursday, February 17
Primary documents can help poets write in the voices of characters who are not themselves. After considering poems by a variety of poets, from Browning to Ai, seminar participants will read diaries and letters from the Library’s collections and will draft poems in voices other than their own. No previous
poetry-writing experience is required.
Geoffrey Brock, author of the poetry collection Weighing Light, is working on a book of poems about or in some way haunted by American history. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arkansas.

Giving Voice: Making Up Stories with Real People
David Bezmozgis
Thursday, March 10
Writers of fiction often assume the voices of real people in order to delve deeply into history or to create alternate histories. This appropriation, thrilling and problematic, requires research. After discussing research strategies and looking at fiction by contemporary writers, each seminar participant will write a fictional episode in the voice of a real person (living or dead, famous or not).
David Bezmozgis’s award-winning stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and in his first book, Natasha: And Other Stories. His feature film, Victoria Day, had its premiere at the Sundance Festival in 2009.

Edgar Allan Poe and the Sciences in Antebellum America
John Tresch
Friday, March 18

Poe’s stories are usually treated as the products of a feverish, deluded mind. Yet even his most macabre tales reflect the massive changes the U.S. went through in the early 19th century, and they can be seen as responses to the increasing importance of reason, science, and technology in the early decades of the Republic.
John Tresch teaches history and the sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is working on a book about the ways in which Poe’s writing reflected and exploited the early Republic’s scientific and technological obsessions.

The Short Story
Wells Tower
Friday, April 22 (Spring break)

Drawing on excerpts from some of American short fiction’s most gifted innovators—from Hemingway and Flannery O’Connor to contemporary writers such as Amy Hempel and Junot Diaz—this seminar will examine contrasting structural and emotional strategies of the short-story form. Class participants will draft short fiction of their own.
Wells Tower’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. His numerous honors include the 2010 Young Lions’ Fiction Award at The New York Public Library.

The World of Homer’s Odyssey
James Romm
Tuesday, April 26 (Spring break)
Homer’s Odyssey, one of the great works in all of world literature, is also a product of its particular time and place. This seminar will examine questions the Odyssey raises about divine justice and the relations between gods and mortals in the context of the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.
James Romm teaches classics at Bard College and has published books on Herodotus, ancient geography, and Alexander the Great.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Andrew McConnell Stott
Tuesday, May 10

On his deathbed, the Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean reportedly said, “Dying is easy; it’s comedy that’s difficult.” The play A Midsummer Night’s Dream helps us see what those difficulties might be. After examining the various dramatic textures at work in this classic comedy, class members will act out a few of the scenes in order to understand more clearly Shakespeare’s most experimental work.
Andrew McConnell Stott teaches English at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and is the award-winning author of The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness and the Story of Britain’s Greatest Comedian (2009).

Writing about Place
Michael Meyer
Thursday, May 12
Following a discussion of great descriptive writing as seen in selections of fiction and non-fiction, the journalist/author Michael Meyer will talk about the value of maps for writing about place. With the help of historical maps from the Library’s vast collections, seminar participants will write descriptions of
places they know firsthand -- their own schools.
Michael Meyer, a Lowell Thomas Award winner for travel writing, is the author of The Last Days of Old Beijing. He received a Whiting Writers’ Award in 2009.

The Hemingses of Monticello: A Casebook on Slavery
Annette Gordon-Reed
Tuesday, May 31

Annette Gordon-Reed will discuss the research she did for her book The Hemingses of Monticello. An examination of primary documents will help participants understand the difficulties of doing research about slavery; the class will also consider the sensitivities required for teaching this difficult subject.
Annette Gordon-Reed teaches at Harvard University and was recently named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. The Hemingses of Monticello won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for History and a National Book Award.

The seminars are free; the Cullman Center provides light breakfast and lunch. All educators are welcome to apply. Priority will be given to New York City public school middle- and high-school English and history teachers, librarians, and administrators.