The Longform Essay: Cultural Criticism in the Age of Hot Takes (Online)

8 weeks online; no live meetings. Class opens on March 10th.
Online (WetInk)
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Level: Intermediate
Adult (18+)
12 seats max

Five minutes on the internet is long enough to make anyone's head spin with impassioned takedowns and click-baity headlines. With all the competing hot takes out there, it can be easy to lose sight of more thoughtful interpretations of the news cycle and the world around us. Instead of dashing off knee-jerk reactions to something we saw on TV last night, in this class, we will aim to think about larger trends we have noticed in art, pop culture, and society at large. We will honor the non-straightforward opinion, practice embracing and interrogating our contradictions and blindspots, and learn how to slow down our thinking to a point where we can clearly articulate our nuanced points of view.

This is a class for essayists who are trying to make sense of the big picture. Over the course of eight weeks, we will work on developing one or two longform essays. We'll explore what we can’t stop thinking about: the things about the world that confuse us, obsess us, or keep us up at night. To inform our writing, we will draw on personal experiences, current events, statistics, art, music, literature, movies, TV, and general observations–but the focus will be on large scale trends that extend beyond individual experience. To that end, each week we will explore an element of cultural criticism, such as what makes cultural criticism distinct from op-eds and other forms of first-person nonfiction; relevancy; controversy; and various approaches to situating our personal experiences within cultural contexts.

Along the way, we'll read a variety of influential cultural critics, including: Jia Tolentino, John McWhorter, Hua Hsu, Jean Guerrero, Leslie Jamison, Jabari Asim, Dayna Tortorici, and others. We may not agree with all of them, but we will study the way they've portrayed their thinking, and try to identify what's working from a craft perspective. Then, we will put what we learn into practice in our own essays. You will have the option of submitting either two distinct essays, or one essay and a major revision for feedback from the class.

This class is an opportunity to do a deep-dive into your essay writing. You will leave the class with a thorough understanding of what it takes to turn a personal essay into cultural commentary, in-depth feedback on your writing, highly developed essay drafts, and a heightened sense for what sorts of personal experiences and musings can be broadened into compelling cultural criticism.

*NOTE that while our handy dandy "Schedule" tab states a 6-7pm class time, there are actually no live meetings for this class! Weekly lessons and assignments open each Wednesday. Students will receive an invitation to Wet Ink, our online class platform, before 5pm on the first day of class. 

Scholarship Information

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

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Erin Cohen
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Previous Students Say

  • "Generative"
  • "Diverse Reading Assignments"
  • "Inspired Me to Write More"
  • "Inundated with Great Info"
  • "Supportive and Informative"


  • Computer or Tablet Recommended
  • Writing Homework
  • Reading Homework
  • Class Discussion
  • Revision
  • Workshop
  • Instructor Feedback
  • Craft Lessons
  • Get Feedback
  • Generate New Work


  • Personal Essay
  • Literary Journalism
  • Nonfiction

Commitment Level



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