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Rachel Cohen


Chicago Humanities Festival, April 29th 4 pm

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Delighted to be appearing in the Chicago Humanities Festival Saturday, April 29th at 4 at First United Methodist Church. I’ll be talking about SURPRISE, and how both joy and sorrow find places there, about Sense and Sensibility , and life with Jane Austen. If you’re in Chicago, please come. https://www. chicagohumanities. org/events/attend/rachel-cohen/ [...] read more

Public Art in Chicago in Travel & Leisure Magazine

Friday, February 18, 2022

I was delighted to have the chance to write about art behind, on, and beyond walls in Chicago for Travel & Leisure magazine. Link to the piece is: https://www. travelandleisure. com/trip-ideas/city-vacations/where-to-see-chicago-public-art With thanks to photographer Lucy Hewett for wonderful images, and to artists Sam Kirk and Faheed Majeem for their wonderful contributions. Image: Andrea Carlson, You are on Potawotomi Land, Banner, Chicago Riverwalk, photo Rachel Cohen, July 2021. [...] read more

Come and read Mansfield Park with me this September at the 92nd Street Y

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Please come and read Mansfield Park with me at the 92nd Street Y on three Mondays this September (September 13th, 20th, 27th). The events support the 92nd Street Y, which graciously offers my former students a $15 discount off the regular ticket price (message me for code). Ticket purchase here . Course Description: Mansfield Park in September Neither comedy nor tragedy, Jane Austen’s most difficult novel, Mansfield Park , is a history, the study of a place and an inquiry into art and artifice. [...] read more

Austen Years one of LA Times's 10 Great Books That Got Lost in the Noise of 2020

Thursday, December 10, 2020

I was delighted to receive this lovely notice in the L. A. Times alongside books by Mieko Kawakami, Charlotte McConaghy, Kate Zambreno, Shirley Hazzard and others: "In this memoir-essay hybrid, Cohen reads and rereads Jane Austen’s work and tells us not just what it all means but also what it does for us — how the author’s pin-sharp assessments and characters instruct us about the world. There isn’t an ounce of kitsch or flowery claptrap. Instead, Cohen overlays a personal account of grieving her father with the help [...] read more

Nov. 19th, Living as Readers, Harvard Conversation with Katharine Smyth, Deidre Lynch

Thursday, November 12, 2020

I'll be having a conversation with Katharine Smyth (All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf) and Deidre Lynch (Loving Literature: A Cultural History) at virtual Harvard on Thursday, November 19th, 6 pm Eastern / 5 pm Central You can register for the event at https://harvard. zoom. us/webinar/register/WN_AI5B5XAsQLuV91dyuk3m3Q [...] read more

Distinguished (Virtual) Public Lecture Oct 19th UT Humanities Center

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Please join me as I give the Ninth Annual Distinguished Lecture at the UT Humanities Center on Monday, October 19th at 2:30 PM Central / 3:30 PM Eastern. I'll be talking about personal literary criticism, close reading, and Jane Austen in times of trouble. The event is free, to register: https://tennessee. zoom. us/webinar/register/WN_wDyDMLCbQLKCifJ5AGQ00w [...] read more

Austen Years, movingly reviewed in Christian Science Monitor and National Book Review

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Austen Years has been reviewed by Steven Donoghue in the Christian Science Monitor: "Cohen has taken her fascination with – and personal dependence on – one great author and transmutes it into something any reader in the world will find downright marvelous. " ** Read the whole review here: Jane Austen Rescued Her **** [...] read more

Austen Years, a glowing review in the New York Times

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

My book Austen Years, published today, received a beautiful review in the New York Times written by Sophie Gee. You can read the review here: Review of Austen Years in the New York Times [...] read more

Austen Years Chosen by Christian Science Monitor as one of 10 Best Books of July

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels , to be published July 21, 2020 by FSG, has been chosen as one of the 10 best books of July by the Christian Science Monitor --- " a luminous gift to Janeites everywhere. " The 10 Best Books of July [...] read more

Austen Years receives a starred review in Booklist

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels , to be published July 21, 2020 by FSG, received a starred review in Booklist 's June 1st issue. From the review: "A wondrous mix of memoir and biography . . . [Austen Years] is a book not to be hurried through but consumed in small portions and pondered over as it sparks introspection. [Cohen's] deep knowledge of and respect for Austen’s novels will equally impress Austenites and readers less versed in her works. " [...] read more

Austen Years Chosen by Vulture as one of Summer 2020's Best Books

Friday, May 22, 2020

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels , my book forthcoming in July, has been chosen by Vulture as one of the books to read this summer: "This tender, rigorous criticism / memoir hybrid. . . intimately matches Jane's literary interrogations — especially those about how women process the infinite varieties of grief — with tender personal sketches. . . invigorating. " (Vulture, 29 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Summer. ) [...] read more

Essay in New Yorker Online, Thinking about art while sheltering

Thursday, April 23, 2020

An essay I wrote for the New Yorker online, about missing museums, and making my own remembered museum in the time of quarantine, is up this week. "Museums know the desires of our hands. That is why they have so many “Do Not Touch” signs, so many guards to caution us back. The special presence of paintings comes from their being at once untouchable and viscerally evocative of touch. . . " You can read the complete essay in the New Yorker [...] read more

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels now forthcoming from FSG, July 2020

Saturday, March 28, 2020

My third book, Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels will now be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, July 21, 2020. Publication has been pushed back two months because of the changing situation of bookstores and book distribution. The book is a reflection on a period of life, when our children were born and began to grow, and my father died, and during which I seemed only to read five novels by Jane Austen. The cover was designed by Na Kim. [...] read more

Review of Manet and Modern Beauty in Apollo

Friday, September 6, 2019

I reviewed Manet and Modern Beauty , which was at the Art Institute of Chicago this summer, for Apollo Magazine. The review is here: https://www. apollo-magazine. com/manet-modern-beauty-exhibition-review/ [...] read more

Bomb Magazine Interview with Joshua Rivkin

Thursday, December 13, 2018

We recently hosted Joshua Rivkin here in the creative writing program's New Voices in Nonfiction Series . I had the chance to spend the afternoon with Rivkin in the Twombly sculpture room at the Art Institute of Chicago and published the interview we did in Bomb Magazine . Our conversation is about having long relationships with artists and museums, about traveling and tracking down, about biographical patterns and gaps, and about bringing back the people who were a part of the life and the work. It is featured here: [...] read more

Berthe Morisot in Apollo Magazine

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A piece I wrote about the revelatory Berthe Morisot exhibition, currently in Philadelphia, then traveling to Dallas and Paris, was the cover of the September 2018 issue of Apollo Magazine. The piece is about Morisot's artistic project, and the ways taking it seriously redefines Impressionism. It can be read online here. https://www. apollo-magazine. com/berthe-morisot-comes-into-her-own/ [...] read more

Beckmann on Instagram at the VQR

Monday, November 20, 2017

A piece I've been writing for a long time about Max Beckmann's Actors is running in fragments at the Virginia Quarterly Review. Read the whole essay at: https://www. vqronline. org/essays-articles/2018/03/cohen [...] read more

Review Essay on the Women of Surrealism in the Literary Review

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My review of Whitney Chadwick's very interesting book The Militant Muse: Love, War, and the Women of Surrealism is in this week's issue of Britain's Literary Review.  The opening can be read here: https://literaryreview. co. uk/current-issue/459 [...] read more

Pessoa & Cavafy on the Radio

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Radio Producer Will Duchon presents a program called "Words & Music" on Friday Evening Classics on WMNR Fine Arts Radio. A few weeks ago the segment grew out of my essay "Lost Cities," and includes excerpts of that essay, together with poems by Fernando Pessoa and Constantine Cavafy and Duchon's selection of music. https://beta. prx. org/stories/206072 [...] read more

Conversation with Robert Birnbaum

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A couple of years ago, when my biography of Bernard Berenson came out, I had a long chat with Robert Birnbaum of Our Man in Boston and Identity Theory.  The conversation was recently transcribed and posted here: https://ourmaninboston. wordpress. com/2016/01/25/not-a-chance-meeting-me-and-rachel-cohen/ [...] read more

Instagram at the VQR

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Virginia Quarterly Review invited a group of writers to post fragments of things seen and iphotoed on their instagram feed #VQRTrueStory.  I posted recently on photographs of hands, details from a painting by Edgar Degas and from a photograph of Sojourner Truth. To read the posts: https://www. instagram. com/vqreview/ To read the complete piece on vqronline: http://www. vqronline. org/articles/2016/01/details-fogg-museum I'm on instagram at: rachelcohennotebook [...] read more

New Piece on J.P. Morgan in Apollo Magazine

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I have a piece in the September 2015 issue of Apollo Magazine on the collections of J. P. Morgan, called "The Man Who Bought the World. " https://www. apollo-magazine. com/j-p-morgan-the-man-who-bought-the-world/ The essay is also featured among an interesting group of pieces in the weekly art newsletter, The Easel: http://the-easel. com/ I wrote about Morgan on the occasion of the reopening of the Morgan Memorial Building at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.   The new building and the reinstallation will have their unveiling on September 19th [...] read more

Berenson a Staff Pick at the Paris Review

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lorin Stein, editor of the Paris Review, chose Bernard Berenson as a staff pick, calling it "an engrossing capsule biography. . . a sympathetic portrait of a self-seeking but passionate lover of art. " Here is the full citation: Like many gifted people, connoisseurs are often bad at explaining what they do. At the turn of the last century, Bernard Berenson was the most influential and successful connoisseur of Italian Renaissance art. With a superhuman visual memory, an old-fashioned belief in beauty for its own sake, and rapacious personal charm, this son of working-class Jewish immigrants climbed [...] read more

Berenson Longlisted for JQ Wingate Prize in UK

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade has been longlisted for Britain's JQ Wingate Prize, hosted by the Jewish Quarterly . Others on the long list this year include Simon Schama, Gary Shteyngart, Maxim Leo and Hanna Krall.  The prize is awarded to "the best book to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader. "   The judges were Devorah Baum, Eva Hoffman, Gabriel Josipovici and George Szirtes. More information about the prize can be found here: http://jewishquarterly. org/2014/11/simon-schama-gary-shteyngart-maxim-leo-2015-wingate-longlist/ [...] read more

Lecture at Harvard

Monday, October 6, 2014

I'm giving a public lecture at the History & Literature program at Harvard on Thursday, October 9th at 6 pm.  The lecture is called "Bernard Berenson and the Picture Trade: Some Problems in Biography," and will take place in the Thompson Room at the Barker Center 110, address 12 Quincy Street in Cambridge. [...] read more

New Piece in Threepenny Review

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Fall 2014 issue of the Threepenny Review has a lovely symposium on libraries, with contributions from Oliver Sacks, Francine Prose, Alberto Manguel and many others. My own short piece begins: O ne way to organize my thoughts about libraries would be to begin with childhood. The public library in Ann Arbor. Metal bins outside into which one could slide books, like letters. Then the dim interior, and mazes of shelves. Dry smell, display cases— [...] read more

Guggenheim Fellowship

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm delighted to be one of the 2014 Guggenheim fellows in General Nonfiction alongside Deborah Baker, Emily Fox Gordon, Joy Harjo, Yunte Huang, Jamie James, D. T. Max, Meghan O'Rourke, Susan Orlean and Victoria Sweet. The entire list of new fellows is here: http://www. gf. org/fellows/current/ [...] read more

Upcoming Talks in New York and Lenox, Mass

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I'll be speaking as part of a panel on James Baldwin and painter Beauford Delaney in a wonderful festival celebrating James Baldwin in New York City on April 24th.  And I'll be giving a talk on July 21st on Bernard Berenson, the Gilded Age art market, and Berenson's long friendship with Edith Wharton at The Mount, Wharton's home in Lenox, Mass. (Look under events for all details. )   [...] read more

Talk for Gardner Museum Members 1/25/14

Friday, January 17, 2014

I'll be giving a talk called "Questions of Collecting: Berenson, Gardner and the Market for Italian Pictures in America," at the Gardner Museum on January 25th at 3:30 pm.  The talk is free, but for Gardner members only.  Further details are at: http://www. gardnermuseum. org/calendar/events/5625 [...] read more

Berenson reviewed in Spectator, Sunday Telegraph

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sam Leith writes in the Spectator that: "Rachel Cohen’s unobtrusively and thoroughly well written short volume skilfully negotiates the contradictory sides of Berenson’s character — the aesthete and the huckster; the man who lived only for art and the man who very much liked to surround himself with the appurtenances of wealth. " Read the full review here: http://www. spectator. co. uk/books/books-feature/9097392/bernard-berenson-by-rachel-cohen-review/ In the Sunday Telegraph: "Martin Gayford enjoys an elegant biography of a chameleon-like art historian. " Read the full review here: http://www. telegraph. co. uk/culture/books/bookreviews/10494326/Bernard-Berenson-by-Rachel-Cohen-review. [...] read more

Berenson reviewed in Bookforum, New York Review of Books

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Bookforum , Thomas Micchelli writes that Bernard Berenson is "luminous" and concludes: "In her remarkable biography, Cohen approaches Berenson's life as a panorama full of artifice and profundity, whose brilliant flashes of color are inextricable from its substrates of shadow. The book leaves an indelible impression, not merely in the way it catalogues Berenson's accomplishments and failings, but also in its dissection of the struggle between desire and alienation that characterizes American art—and life—to this day. " The full review is here: http://www. bookforum. com/review/12507 In the current issue of [...] read more

BB starred in Booklist, reviewed in Wall Street Journal, Gallerist

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Recent press for Bernard Berenson: a Life in the Picture Trade , includes this starred review by Donna Seaman in Booklist: 
Cohen (A Chance Meeting, 2004) presents the most dynamic biography yet of the groundbreaking art historian Bernard Berenson. Strung between the Old World and the New, scholarly pursuits and the marketplace, Berenson was influential, controversial, and conflicted. Born Bernhard Valvrojenski in Lithuania, in 1865, he immigrated with his poor Jewish family to Boston and by dint of his ardent reading, passion for beauty, acute intelligence, and incessant ambition turned himself into a Harvard-educated Episcopalian, then a [...] read more

Bernard Berenson reviewed in the New York Review of Books

Friday, November 1, 2013

In the current issue of the New York Review of Books , Walter Kaiser writes that Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade is: "Written with intelligence and understanding and often with impressive psychological insight…A thoughtful, short biography. ” If you are a subscriber to the New York Review you can read the full review here: http://www. nybooks. com/articles/archives/2013/nov/21/passions-bernard-berenson/ [...] read more

Bernard Berenson published October 22nd.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My second book, Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade , has just been published in the Yale University Press Jewish Lives Series.  The press describes the book: "This brilliant new biography of the leading art connoisseur of the Gilded Age explores his accomplishments, his painful disappointments, the historical forces that affected his life, and the women who were central to his achievements. " “A highly sympathetic and graceful portrait of Bernard Berenson, the art connoisseur and dealer who remade himself into work of art, priced and priceless, which he protected, cultivated, and even at time [...] read more

New Piece in Art in America

Saturday, October 5, 2013

An article I wrote on the way American art critics helped to shape a new taste for Italian Renaissance pictures is featured in this month's Art in America .  The piece is part of Art in America's celebration of a century of publication.  One of its important early contributors was Bernard Berenson, and this piece grew out of research I did for Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade .   [...] read more

Interview with Five Books

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I had the pleasure of recommending five books about writing about visual experience for the website Five Books, a place where I've discovered many interesting things to read. The books I chose are ones I've recently been engaged with that have been helping me to think about how language comes into contact with art, and with images in the mind -- it was a pleasure to talk that over with interviewer / editor Sophie Roell. The interview is here: http://fivebooks. com/interviews/rachel-cohen-on-writing-about-art [...] read more

Reading with Vijay Seshadri October 1

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'll be reading with Vijay Seshadri in the DoubleTake Series curated by Albert Mobilio at Apex Art Gallery October 1, at 7 pm. The gallery is at 291 Church St and details about the reading are to be found here: apexart. org/double-take-reading-series. php . Vijay's wonderful book 3 Sections is out this month from Graywolf.  For the reading, he and I [...] read more

Lawrence Weschler Symposium in McSweeney's No.44

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I've edited a symposium in tribute to the wonderful work of Lawrence Weschler, author of Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder , and Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing That One Sees , and Everything That Rises .  The symposium appears as part of McSweeney's issue 44, and is to be published September 20, 2013.   Here is McSweeney's description of the issue: With a stunning set of stories from some of the finest writers toiling away today—including breathtaking new work from Rebecca Curtis, Stuart Dybek, and Jim Shepard, and the Southeast Asian prison novella the world [...] read more

Collaboration with Tara Geer

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A new collaboration with artist Tara Geer has taken the shape of a book called Carrying Silence , published by Glenn Horowitz in conjunction with Geer's show at the Glenn Horowitz Gallery in August, 2013.  One section of my essay for the book can be read on the blog here.  The link to an essay I wrote some years ago about Tara and the drawing classes she teaches to André Gregory is below.   [...] read more

Essay in The Believer

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I've heard from a wonderful variety of artists, curators, poets, rhetoricians and accountants about this piece, "Gold, Golden, Gilded, Glittering," that appeared in November 2012 in The Believer .   Excerpt: "In fact, we have long entrusted the task of representing our ideas of value to members of two professions that might seem to have little in common: banking and art. And, in the last seven hundred years or so, it has happened more than once that visual and financial inventors have come up with strikingly similar representations. There is more than a shadow of resemblance [...] read more