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The Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy

Newsworthy: New Forms of Journalism, Personal Essay and Public Reflection in an Age of Entertainment

Newsworthy event poster

Thursday, January 22, 2015
6:00 p.m.
Devlin Hall, Room 101


  • Edward Hirsch
  • Jill Lepore
  • Lawrence Weschler
  • Carlo Rotella

Part of "The Arts and the Culture of Democracy" Series.

about the event


Effective citizen governance depends upon retaining and restoring legibility, which in the largest sense means restoring the link between the citizen and the information and ideas she needs to govern in the 21st century global environment.  However, it is increasingly difficult to find and interpret the information we need to govern ourselves, in an era when the lines between news and opinion, between journalism and entertainment have become alarmingly blurred.

Nevertheless, it need not be the case that all such blurrings of aesthetic boundaries are equally obscuring in their effects on legibility. Experiments in “New Journalism” in the 1970’s and since have combined the aims of traditional reportage with the power of literary techniques to create accounts of social reality at once more accurate and more compelling.  Perhaps such journalism and other contemporary media forms contribute to the necessary space for reflection regarding the deeper implications of the day’s news events, and sustain governance in an age of manipulated reactivity and Infotainment.

about the speakers


Edward Hirsch, Poet. Photo by Julie Dermansky.

Edward Hirsch is an American poet and critic. He was born in Chicago in 1950 and was educated at Grinnell College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Ph.D. in Folklore. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a Pablo Neruda Presidential Medal of Honor, the Prix de Rome, and an Academy of Arts and Letters Award. In 2008, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Edward Hirsch’s first collection of poems, For the Sleepwalkers (1981), received the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University and the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets. His second collection, Wild Gratitude (1986), won the National Book Critics Award. Since then, he has published six additional books of poems: The Night Parade (1989), Earthly Measures (1994), On Love (1998), Lay Back the Darkness (2003), Special Orders (2008), and The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (2010), which brings together thirty-five years of poems. Hirsch is also the author of five prose books, including A Poet’s Glossary (2014), Poet’s Choice (2006), How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (1999), and is the editor of Theodore Roethke’s Selected Poems (2005) and co-editor of The Making of a Sonnet: A Norton Anthology (2008).

Edward Hirsch is the recipient of an Academy of Arts and Letters Award, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and was awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hirsch taught for six years in the English department at Wayne State University and seventeen years in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. He is now president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.


Professor Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore is an American essayist, writer, and historian. The Kemper Professor of American History at Harvard, she is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. Much of her research, teaching, and writing explores absences and asymmetries of evidence in the historical record. Her current work concerns the histories and technologies of evidence and of privacy.

Lepore received a B.A. in English from Tufts University, an M.A. in American Culture from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.  Her latest book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, was published in October 2014. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (2013), which was named Time magazine’s Best Book of the Year, was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and winner of the Mark Lynton Prize.

Lepore's other works include The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (2012), a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and The Story of America: Essays on Origins (2012), which was shortlisted for the PEN Literary Award for the Art of the Essay, and New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. During a Guggenheim Fellowship year beginning in 2015, Lepore will be working on a book calledDickens in America, an account of the novelist’s 1842 American tour.



Lawrence Weschler, author.

Lawrence Weschler is an American author of works of creative nonfiction. He is a graduate of Cowell College of the University of California at Santa Cruz. He was a staff writer at The New Yorker for over twenty years and was a two-time recipient of the George Polk Award (for Cultural Reporting and Magazine Reporting) and a Lannan Literary Award.  He has taught previously at Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, Bard College, Vassar College, Sarah Lawrence College, and New York University.

Weschler’s books of political reportage include The Passion of Poland (1984), A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (1990), and Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas (1998). His “Passions and Wonders” series currently comprises Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin (1982), David Hockney’s Cameraworks (1984); Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (1995), which was shortlisted for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces (1998), Boggs: A Comedy of Values (1999), Robert Irwin: Getty Garden (2002), Vermeer in Bosnia (2004), Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences (2006), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in 2007, and Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative (2011).

Weschler is currently the director emeritus of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, where he has been a fellow since 1991, and is the artistic director emeritus with the Chicago Humanities Festival. He is a contributing editor to McSweeney’s, the Threepenny Review, and The Virginina Quarterly Review and recently retired from his position as Chair of the Sundance Documentary Film Festival. He is currently a distinguished writer-in-residence at the Carter Journalism Institute at New York University.


Professor Carlo Rotella

Carlo Rotella is the Director of the American Studies Program and Director of the Lowell Humanities Series at Boston College. He received his B.A. at Wesleyan University and received his Ph.D. at Yale University. He regularly writes for The New York Times Magazine and the Washington Post Magazine, is a regular columnist for the Boston Globe, and is a commentator for WGBH FM. Rotella is also an editor of the "Chicago Visions and Revisions" series at the University of Chicago Press.

Rotella’s published works include October Cities (1998), Good With Their Hands; Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt (2002), and Cut Time: An Education at the Fights (2003), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Playing in Time: Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories (2012). His articles and chapters have also appeared in The New Yorker, Critical Inquiry, American Quarterly, The American Scholar, Raritan, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, Transition, Harper's, DoubleTake, Boston, Slate, The Believer, TriQuarterly, and The Best American Essays.

Rotella has held Guggenheim, Howard, and Du Bois fellowships and received the Whiting Writers Award, the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award, and The American Scholar's prizes for Best Essay and Best Work by a Younger Writer. He has also received U.S. Speaker and Specialist Grants from the State Department to lecture in China and Bosnia and Herzegovina. At Boston College, Rotella specializes in American Studies, urban literature and culture, American literature, and creative nonfiction writing.