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Chance Meetings Session 8: Rachel Cohen—A Conclusion

Wednesday, December 11, 2024


12:30 pm Eastern


Rachel Cohen—A Conclusion

The final lecture of the literary seminar by Rachel Cohen will extend the lines of chance meetings forward, watching new art forms emerge after the first World War, and considering Carl Van Vechten’s photographs of the leading lights of modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Gertrude Stein. In the turbulent 1960s, we will be able to see Marianne Moore’s friendship with Elizabeth Bishop, and the effect of the Civil Rights era on James Baldwin’s encounters with Beauford Delaney, Richard Avedon, and Norman Mailer. From this concluding vantage, participants will be able to look back at a rich tapestry from this first season of chance meetings.

Students are encouraged to read the featured text in advance of the session, which in this instance are select chapters of Cohen’s A Chance Meeting

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.


Rachel Cohen is the author of three books of nonfiction, most recently Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels, which was published in 2020 to critical acclaim. Her group biography, A Chance Meeting (2004), has just been re-released as a New York Review Classic. Her essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The London Review of Books,and The New York Times,among other publications, and her work has been included in Best American Essays and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She is Professor of Practice in the Arts in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Chicago.

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.