Writers are like wizards: they wave their pens over paper and create magic spells that project us into other times, places, and minds. So why do most students hate to write so much? In this inspirational talk, Gottschall locates the problem not in the students, but in pervasive writing myths and in boredom: students are usually forced to write about the professor’s passion, rather than being pushed to find their own. Gottschall seeks to excite students about learning and writing by describing the hard struggles of great writers, and by leading them through the ups and downs of producing his own book The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch. Gottschall takes students, from the conception of his idea, through research on the science of violence, to his own cage fight, and his equally fierce battles with writer’s block. Along the way he draws surprising parallels between the ecstasy and the agony of fighting and writing.
Jonathan Gottschall writes books at the intersection of science and art. He is a leading figure in a new movement to bridge the divide between the two cultures of the sciences and the humanities. His most recent work, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection), draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology and biology to show how storytelling has evolved as a fundamental human instinct.
Jonathan is a Distinguished Research Fellow in the English Department at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania and blogs about the mysteries of storytelling at Psychology Today. While his Ph.D. is in English, his main dissertation advisor was the prominent evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, and he splits his academic writing between scientific and literary journals. He has also written for New Scientist, The Boston Globe, Seed Magazine, The Huffington Post, NPR and BBC Radio, and the blogs of The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company. His work has been featured in outlets like The New York Times, Nature, Scientific American, Oprah Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Described by Steven Pinker as “a brilliant young scholar, Jonathan is the author or editor of six books, including The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence and the World of Homer and Literature, Science, and a New Humanities. Gottschall lives with his wife and two young daughters in Washington, PA.