Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

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Bard College Catalogue 2013-14

Bard College Catalogue 2013-14

Written Arts


Mary Caponegro and Robert Kelly (directors), Jedediah Berry, Teju Cole, Benjamin Hale, Michael Ives, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Ann Lauterbach, Wyatt Mason, Bradford Morrow, Joseph O’Neill, Susan Fox Rogers, Luc Sante, Mona Simpson


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; one course in the British, U.S., or comparative literature sequences; one interpretation of literature course; 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 Written Arts faculty, who will determine whether the project seems appropriate and help the student find an adviser.

Recent Senior Projects in Written Arts

  • “Concrete Shadows: A Collection of Urban Fantastic Fiction”
  • “Dream Tongue,” a collection of poems focused on desire, alienation, and the spiritual quest
  • “Into That Darkness,” a novel about the medical exploitation of African American women
  • “The North Fork,” a novella about a small, fictional town and the strange ritual its inhabitants practice
  • “Without a Mountain,” a narrative set in a West Virginia coal town decimated by mountaintop removal mining


In addition to the courses listed below, students may find that other programs offer writing courses and workshops specific to their subjects.. Examples include Film 211-212, Screenwriting I; and Theater 207 and 208, Introduction to Playwriting and Advanced Playwriting.

Beginning Fiction Workshop
Written Arts 121
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.

Introduction to Creative Nonfiction
Written Arts 122
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
Written Arts 123
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.

Reading and Writing the Personal Essay
Written Arts 2181
This course involves equal parts reading and writing and is for students who want to develop their creative writing and analytic thinking. Readings are taken from Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay, which traces the personal essay from Seneca to Montaigne (the father of the tradition) to contemporary stylists such as Richard Rodriguez and Joan Didion. Student work is critiqued in a workshop format.

Nonfiction Workshop: Writing Science
Written Arts 2182
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.

Text in Performance
Written Arts 220 
In recent years, hip-hop and slam have resuscitated an interest in the live performance potential of the written word. But an alternate body of text-based performance art and practice, known variously as “sound poetry” and “text/sound composition,” has been exploring the ever-shifting edge between language and music since the advent of European Modernism. In this workshop, participants examine this border territory where sound meets poetry meets music meets drama.

Intermediate Fiction Workshop
Written Arts 221
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.

Intermediate Poetry Workshop
Written Arts 222
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 text/sound compositions involving multiple and simultaneous speakers. Admission by portfolio.

Cultural Reportage
Written Arts 223
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
Written Arts 2232
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.

Writing Fiction for New Media
Written Arts 225
cross-listed: experimental humanities
This course explores some of the formal possibilities that digital media offers the fiction writer. Technologies investigated include hypertext, interactive fiction, platforms for location-specific writing, animation, and multimedia. No technical proficiency is assumed, but the class involves working with applications and learning basic coding skills. Digital-media works by Michael Joyce, Shelley Jackson, Geoffrey Ryman, Neal Stephenson, and others are considered, as are paper-bound works by Borges, Nabokov, Cortázar, and Roubaud.

Poetry: Texts, Forms, Experiment
Written Arts 226
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.

In the Wild: Writing the Natural World
Written Arts 236
Students write narratives that use the natural world as both subject and source of inspiration. Extensive readings help identify what makes nature writing compelling (or not) and the challenges of the genre. Works by Emerson, Thoreau, and Muir are studied, as are contemporary texts from writers such as Annie Dillard, Gretel Ehrlich, and Edward Abbey. All students must also keep a nature journal.

Advanced Poetry Workshop
Written Arts 322
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.

Advanced Fiction Workshop
Written Arts 324
A workshop in the creation of short stories, traditional or experimental, for experienced writers. Students are expected to write several polished stories, critique one another’s work, and analyze the fiction of published authors.

Blown Deadlines: A Course in Journalistic Writing
Written Arts 330
The root of the word “journalism” suggests writing that is disposable; yet, in every era, writing that was supposed to serve only a passing moment has endured. This workshop explores great examples of deadline writing, from the old guard (Johnson, De Quincey, Baudelaire, Twain, Orwell) to the recent past and present (Didion, Mailer, James Wood, Katherine Boo, John Sullivan). Forms encountered—and attempted—include personal essay, critical essay, narrative with argument, profiles, and satires.

Translation Workshop
Written Arts 331
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.

Writing Nonfiction
Written Arts 338
The goal of this demanding seminar is to transform the way each participant writes and perceives the world. Readings include modern nonfiction classics by Didion, Orwell, McPhee, 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
Written Arts 3500
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.

Senior Colloquium: Written Arts
Written Arts 405
This required yearlong colloquium provides Written Arts majors with an opportunity to share working methods, knowledge, skills, and resources. The course also explicitly addresses challenges arising from research and writing on this scale.

Writing Workshop for Nonmajors
Written Arts 422
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.