Competition: US & Canada
Education: Sarah Lawrence College
Rachel Cohen is an essayist and cultural critic, who writes about history, literature, and the arts. Her essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Guardian, London Review of Books, New York Times, Threepenny Review, Believer, and McSweeney’s, and have been anthologized in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and in Best American Essays.
Cohen’s first book, A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists (Random House, 2004), is a series of thirty-six linked essays about the encounters among thirty figures in American literary and cultural history during the century from the Civil War through the civil-rights movement. A Chance Meeting won the PEN/Jerard Fund Award, was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Prize and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and was named a notable book of the year by the Los Angeles Times and by Maureen Corrigan on National Public Radio. In a cover review for the LA Times Book Review, Richard Howard said that A Chance Meeting’s thirty-six essays “constitute something of a new genre, rare in our period. .What is being divined is nothing less than a century or so of American taste, the nature of modern literary and artistic tangency in the United States.”
In the fall of 2013, Cohen published Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade (Yale University Press), a biography of the noted art connoisseur that also gives a picture of the Gilded Age art market and of the emerging study of the paintings of the Italian Renaissance.
In the last several years, Cohen has written frequently about painters and painting and has begun keeping an online notebook about looking at art.. Her current project is a series of meditations on painting and time, intended to consider, among other things, how the advent of photography for the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, like that of the internet for us, reorganized both the shared sense of time, and the inward experiences of memory and imagination.
Rachel Cohen has taught as a regular faculty member in the Sarah Lawrence College creative writing program. She is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and has had fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her family.
Profile photograph © Peter Serling, 2013