The Power of Literature: A Conversation Between Story Scientist and Author Angus Fletcher and Novelist, Essayist, and English Professor Michelle Herman!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 7:00pm

Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature by leading story scientist Angus Fletcher is an eye opening and thought-provoking work that offers a new understanding of the power of literature as it examines literary inventions through the ages, from ancient Mesopotamia to Elena Ferrante, that shows how writers have created technical breakthroughs—rivaling any scientific inventions—and engineering enhancements to the human heart and mind. Fletcher will be in conversation with Ohio State University’s Creative Writing Program co-founder, novelist and essayist, Michelle Herman.

Registration is on Eventbrite where you will receive login information and full instructions close to the event. A general admission ticket to access the event is $5; a ticket that includes WONDERWORKS waives the admission fee and is $32. The first 50 registrants will also receive a signed bookplate. Registration closes at 5:00 pm on the day of the event.

The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences is Gramercy’s Community Partner for this program.

In its starred review, Kirkus wrote: An idiosyncratic, richly detailed, often lyrical invitation to reconsider how and why to read literature." 

Literature is a technology like any other. And the writers we revere—from Homer, Shakespeare, Austen, and others—each made a unique technical breakthrough that can be viewed as both a narrative and neuroscientific advancement. Literature’s great invention was to address problems we could not solve—not how to start a fire or build a boat, but how to live and love; how to maintain courage in the face of death; how to account for the fact that we exist at all.

Wonderworks reviews the blueprints for twenty-five of the most powerful developments in the history of literature. These inventions can be scientifically shown to alleviate grief, trauma, loneliness, anxiety, numbness, depression, pessimism, and ennui—all while sparking creativity, courage, love, empathy, hope, joy, and positive change. They can be found all throughout literature—from ancient Chinese lyrics to Shakespeare’s plays, poetry to nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and crime novels to slave narratives.

Angus Fletcher is a professor of story science at Ohio State’s Project Narrative, the world’s leading academic think-tank for the study of stories. He has dual degrees in neuroscience and literature, received his PhD from Yale, taught Shakespeare at Stanford, and has published two books and dozens of peer-reviewed academic articles on the scientific workings of novels, poetry, film, and theater. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has done story-consulting for projects for Sony, Disney, the BBC, Amazon, PBS, and Universal, and is the author/presenter of the Audible/Great Courses Guide to Screenwriting.

Michelle Herman is the author of four novels – Missing, Dog, Devotion, and the forthcoming (2021) Close-Up – and the novella collection A New and Glorious Life, as well as three essay collections – The Middle of Everything, Stories We Tell Ourselves (longlisted for the 2014 PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and Like A Song. She has also authored a book for children, A Girl’s Guide to Life. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in a wide range of periodicals, from American Scholar to O, the Oprah Magazine, and she writes a weekly column for Slate. She has taught creative writing at The Ohio State University for many years and was a founder of the MFA program in creative writing there.