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Why We Tell Stories: The Science of Narrative

Stories have existed in many forms—cave paintings, parables, poems, tall tales, myths—throughout history and across almost all human cultures. But is storytelling essential to survival? Join Jonathan Gottschall, Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Keith Oatley in a spirited discussion seeking to explain the uniquely human gift of narrative—from how neurons alight when we hear a tale, to the role of storytelling in cognitive development, to the art of storytelling itself, which informs a greater understanding of who we are as a species.

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Jay AllisonJournalist, Documentary Maker

Jay Allison is an independent journalist, documentary maker, and leader in public broadcasting. He is a frequent producer for NPR news programs and This American Life, and a six-time Peabody Award winner.

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The Upright Citizens Brigade TheatrePerformance Artists

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is dedicated to fostering both an appreciation and education of the arts through affordable and high quality comedic performances and classes. The Upright CItizen’s Brigade first brought its award winning sketch comedy show to New York in 1996.

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Joyce Carol OatesAuthor

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde, and the New York Times bestsellers The Falls and The Gravedigger’s Daughter.

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Jeffrey EugenidesAuthor

Jeffrey Eugenides grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His novel Middlesex was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Ambassador Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, France’s Prix Medicis, and the Lambda Literary Award.

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Keith Oatley Psychologist, Novelist

Keith Oatley has spent the last twenty years researching the psychology of reading and writing fiction, as both a scientist and the author of three novels.

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Jonathan GottschallWriter

Jonathan Gottschall writes books about the intersection of science and art. He is one of the leading figures in a new movement that is trying to bridge the humanities-sciences divide.

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Paul BloomPsychologist

Paul Bloom’s research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. A professor of psychology at Yale University, Bloom has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, but also for publications with more general circulation, such as The New York Times, the Guardian, and the Atlantic.

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