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Chance Meetings Session 4: Merve Emre on Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House

Thursday, August 8, 2024


12:30 pm Eastern


Merve Emre on Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House

“Now that the vivid consciousness of an earlier state had come back to him, the Professor felt that life with this Kansas boy, little as there had been of it, was the realest of his lives, and that all the years between had been accidental and ordered from the outside,” wrote Willa Cather in The Professor’s House. “His career, his wife, his family, were not his life at all, but a chain of events which had happened to him.”

Join Merve Emre—professor of creative writing and criticism at Wesleyan and a regular New Yorker contributor—for a talk about one of Cather’s mid-career novels (it came after My Antonia and before Death Comes for the Archbishop).

The Professor’s House is a story of desire and defeat composed in a minor key,” writes Emre. “It is an academic novel, a mid-life crisis novel (at times similar in tone to John Williams’s Stoner), and a novel about the corruption of one’s ideals by material success and the grace extended by literary learning.”

Students are encouraged to read the featured text in advance of the session.

A Q&A will follow the presentation, and a recording will be made available for those who cannot attend live.

The event will take place via Zoom with automatic closed captioning. To request any other accessibility features, please email and we will make every effort to accommodate.


Merve Emre is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing and Criticism at Wesleyan University and the Director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing and Criticism. Her books include Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar AmericaThe Personality Brokers (selected as one of the best books of 2018 by the New York TimesThe EconomistNPR, and The Spectator), The Ferrante Letters (winner of the 2021 PROSE award for literature), and The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway. She has been awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize, the Robert B. Silvers Prize for Literary Criticism, and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing by the National Book Critics Circle. She is a contributing writer at The New Yorker and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Chance Meetings: online literary seminars featuring writers talking about classics of American literature

Presented by the Authors Guild Foundation, this new online literary seminar is inspired by Rachel Cohen’s A Chance Meeting, a dazzling group biography that offers a striking vision of the making and remaking of the American mind and imagination from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.

Following the book’s spirit and shape, the monthly sessions feature talks on beloved and thought-provoking classics of American literature by contemporary writers with a personal connection to the works they are discussing. Cohen herself will lead two talks and circulate an e-newsletter to students in the weeks between sessions.

View all Chance Meetings events here.