Bard College Catalogue 2012-13
Mary Caponegro and Robert Kelly* (directors), Celia Bland, Teju Cole, Michael Ives, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Paul La Farge, Ann Lauterbach, Wyatt Mason, Edie Meidav, Bradford Morrow, Joseph O’Neill, Joan Retallack, Susan Fox Rogers, Luc Sante**, Mona Simpson, Binyavanga Wainaina
* on sabbatical, fall 2012
** leave of absence, 2012–2013
At Bard, writing is seen as a process that engages the student in an ardent investigation of the nature and varieties of art, so that the student’s work is understood in the context of the arts of the present and past. The careful study of literature and an awareness of critical theory are essential components of the curriculum. The Written Arts Program offers a supportive environment in which the works produced meet with response in workshops and tutorials led by professional writers who are also teachers. Respecting individual uniqueness, the program proposes to liberate students even as it insists on the importance of a growing awareness of intellectual and social concerns.
Every writing student is expected to investigate poetics and literary theory, and to invest substantially in courses in history, philosophy, and the arts. Writing workshops are offered every semester at several levels. Nonmajors and majors are encouraged to apply. Entry to fiction, nonfiction, and poetry workshops is by submission of writing samples to the teacher. Other workshops explore specialized varieties of writing, including translation and cultural reportage; entry to these workshops is by consultation with the instructor. Application deadlines are announced each semester.
For Moderation, students must successfully complete at least one writing workshop; two courses in the British, U.S., or comparative literature sequences; one elective course in the division; and a reading knowledge of a foreign language. A portfolio of original writing in one or more genres must be submitted, along with an analytical paper from a past or present course in literature. Students who propose to do a Senior Project in writing must submit a substantial portfolio of recent creative work to a board made up of two members of the writing faculty, who will determine whether the project seems appropriate and help the student find the appropriate adviser.
In addition to the courses listed below, other programs may offer writing courses and workshops specific to their subjects. Examples include Film 211-212, Screenwriting I; and Theater 207-208, Playwriting I and II.
This writing-intensive course for first-year students explores noteworthy examples of poetry fiction, and creative nonfiction in order to understand important elements of craft.
First Fiction Workshop
Students read selected writers and discuss general writing principles. Student work is examined through group response, analysis, and evaluation. Course enrollment is by permission of the instructor; a writing sample is required.
Nonfiction Writing Workshop
Creative nonfiction is a flexible genre that includes memoir, the personal essay, collaged writings, portraits, and more. Students write creative essays that can range from lyrical to analytical, meditative to whimsical. There are weekly writings and readings.
First Poetry Workshop
This workshop focuses on the student’s own writing, along with the articulation of responses to the writing of others. Readings develop familiarity with poetic form, movement, and energy. Attendance at poetry readings and lectures is required. Open by permission of the instructor; writing sample required.
Nonfiction Workshop: Writing Science
Students write about science in a number of formats: essay, editorial, feature article, and book review. They address the problems that arise when the search for voice confronts subject matter that is hard to simplify or explain.
Reading as Writing as Reading: Exploring the Contemporary
In this course, students read a variety of contemporary poets, asking the questions: What kinds of forms are necessary to address the changing present? How do today’s poets draw on ideas and methods in disciplines other than poetics? Core texts: Conjunctions:35 American Poetry and American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry. In the second of two weekly classes, students write poems and prose in response to the readings.
Intermediate Fiction Workshop
This intermediate-level fiction workshop is suitable for students who have completed First Fiction Workshop or done meaningful writing and thinking about fiction on their own. In addition to critiquing student work, the class reads selected published stories and essays and completes a series of structured exercises.
The Machine Made of Words
William Carlos Williams famously characterized the poem as a “machine made of words.” The objective of this course is to investigate aspects of verbal invention, with the goal of increasing the options available to writers of poetry. In addition to close readings of poems drawn from various periods of English poetry (and some translated texts), attention is paid to the kinetic possibilities of syntax and to more traditionally “poetic” concerns such as rhythm and the arrangement of words on the page.
This is a travel writing class and a class about Africa, where we may or may not have been. Readings include Kojo Laing’s Search Sweet Country; David Kaiza’s “Benediction in Oyugis”; stories by Norman Rush; Aminatta Forna’s The Devil That Danced on the Water; Ahmadou Kourouma’s Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote; and Richard Onyango’s The Life and Times of Richard Onyango.
Reading and Writing Contemporary Cuba
This seminar explores the development of contemporary Cuban fiction. With some illumination from nonfiction as well as Cuba’s vibrant cinematic culture, students explore, creatively and analytically, what it means to write fiction within a country functioning under the gaze of the Panopticon. Writers such as Arenas, Carpentier, Garcia, and Lezama Lima, read in translation, write within a matrix of influences: French surrealism, Afro-Cuban mythology, communist revolutionary rhetoric, and the pain and porosity of diaspora.
Intermediate Poetry Workshop
Working under the assumption that the “condition of music” to which poetry aspires answers to no single criterion, participants investigate a variety of textual and performance practices, ranging from traditional prosody to assorted treatments of glossolalia, jazz poetry, and sound/text compositions involving multiple and simultaneous speakers. Admission by portfolio.
This course begins with a look at theories of representation of culture and otherness, and continues with close readings of ethnographic fiction from writers such as Abish, Barthes, Calvino, Coetzee, Cortázar, Diaz, Farah, Geertz, Ghosh, Goonesekera, Kincaid, Kundera, Lévi-Strauss, Mahfouz, Narayan, Paley, Rushdie, and Winterson. These readings serve as a catalyst for students’ creative and critical work.
This course is for the self-motivated student interested in actively developing journalistic skills relating to cultural reportage, particularly criticism. Stress is placed on regular practice in writing reviews of plays, concerts, films, and television. Work is submitted for group response and evaluation. Readings draw from Agee, Connolly, Orwell, Shaw, Sontag, Wilson, and contemporary working critics.
Writing the World: Nonfiction Prose
A course in two skills: learning to make excellent nonfiction prose and learning to see the world around you. The emphasis in nonfiction prose nearly always falls on the personal; this course turns the writer’s gaze outward. Models are drawn from history and current events. The goal is to become a compelling witness and maker of acute prose—as art, not journalism.
Poetry: Texts, Forms, Experiment
This course is for students who wish to explore poetic forms and for those who are considering (or on their way to) moderating into Written Arts. Students explore a broad range—historically and varietally—of ways to compose with words, as well as technologies that are expanding the genre.
Advanced Fiction Workshop
A workshop in the creation of short stories, traditional or experimental, for experienced writers. Students are expected to write several polished stories, critique each other’s work, and analyze the fiction of published authors. Admission is by portfolio.
Advanced Poetry Workshop
Students present their work to the group for analysis and response, and complete suggested readings of contemporary poets. Optional writing assignments are given for those poets who may find this useful. The course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Students translate Arthur Rimbaud’s prose/verse poem, “Une saison en enfer.” Together, the class goes through the poem line by line, discussing the meaning of the French, and the boggling range of alternatives in English. The purpose is not to come up with a collective translation of the poem, but to arrive at individual translations through discussion and independent research. Previous translations of Rimbaud are read, as are essays on translation as a practice. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.
Reading and Writing the Hudson: Writing the Essay of Place
Students get to know the Hudson River in all of its complexity through reading a range of works and writing personal essays of place. Each student undertakes independent research into some aspect of the river; this research, combined with personal experience of the valley, is used to develop extended creative nonfiction essays, which are critiqued in a workshop format.
This workshop explores the art of literary translation by focusing on style, craft, tone, and the array of options available to the literary translator in using translation as a tool for interpreting textual origins and the performative shape of the translation itself. Prerequisite: one year of language study or permission of the instructor.
This course considers the essay form, with a particular focus on voice, viewpoint, and rhetorical technique. Word choice, cadence, and even punctuation are addressed, in the belief that even the most minute aspects of writing affect the impact of the whole. The goal is to equip students with a strong but supple command of their instrument, a prerequisite for personal expression. Weekly reading (from Macauley to Didion) and writing assignments as well as in-class exercises and discussion.
The goal of this demanding seminar is to transform the way each participant writes and perceives the world. Readings include modern nonfiction classics by Joan Didion, George Orwell, John McPhee, Ryszard Kapuscinski, and many more. This is not a seminar in a single genre of nonfiction writing (e.g., memoir, profile, feature), but it does examine the art and skills that underlie every genre.
Advanced Fiction: The Novella
Students read novellas by Henry James, Gustave Flaubert, Anton Chekhov, Flannery O’Connor, Allan Gurganus, Amy Hempel, and Philip Roth. Using these primary texts for reference, the class discusses technical aspects of fiction writing, such as the use of time, narrative voice, openings, endings, dialogue, circularity, and editing, from the point of view of writers, focusing closely on the student’s own work. In addition to writing weekly responses to assigned reading, students write and revise a novella.
Writing Workshop for Nonmajors
Every craft, science, skill, and discipline can be articulated, and anyone who can do real work in science or scholarship or art can learn to write “creatively”—to make personal concerns interesting to other people by means of language. This workshop, for juniors and seniors who are not writing majors but wish to learn about the world through the act of writing, provides the chance to experiment with all kinds of writing.