Hiya, guys! So, let me ask this: what are your thoughts on Bennington’s writing program? The overall feel of Bennington sounds beautiful, but I’m really hoping that it can also be a haven for word-nerds like myself. Ideally, I’d love to surround myself with creativity and get into some fabulous grad school with a seasoned pen to earn my MFA in Creative Writing. An honest opinion, recommendations and advice are all appreciated!
Hiya back, you! Okay, so let me start off by saying that Bennington doesn’t technically have an undergrad writing program. Our philosophy, best expressed in our MFA in Writing’s motto, is “Read one hundred books. Write one.” In other words, good readers make good writers.
My Plan is centered around my desire to capture the human condition on paper, so I definitely get where you’re coming from in wanting an actual writing program. But I’ve discovered that Bennington’s emphasis on the reading aspect of writing makes total sense to me. After all, as a reader you live thousands of lives through the books you read, and I think that truly adds a universality to your writing.
Plenty! In addition to the work you’ll be doing in classes, there are extracurricular groups such as:
In addition to these clubs, there are always opportunities to form clubs of your own through the Office of Student Life, as well as less-formalized extracurricular activities, like open workshops for student fiction, or poetry readings in your common room. Hope this helps!
Here are some places that friends and acquaintances of mine have interned for FWT over the past few years:
Now, this is in no way a comprehensive list of English-related FWT positions, but then I suppose further questions would be up to you: what do you want to do? Are you interested in creative writing? Journalism? The English language itself? It might be that you don’t know yet; and that’s the beauty of FWT. It’s a really great way to learn more about yourself, and figure out just what it is that ‘English’ means to you.
Short answer - Good writers are good readers, so be prepared to read a lot and write a lot of papers. Here’s a slightly more in depth answer I posted a while ago.
One little anecdote - one of the things I’ve really appreciated this term that Brooke Allen (great lit teacher) has been doing is editing my prose in my essays. In high school my papers were mostly edited for grammar and clarity, but beyond that (because I have perfect grammar now of course) Brooke will have me change words and sentences just to make the paper sound better, which is super helpful as far as improving your writing goes.
Why thank you!
As far as creative writing goes here, there really isn’t a technical program. The literature faculty believe that good writers are great readers, so before you write anything, you’ll be spending a whole lot of time analyzing and writing about literature and/or poetry.
That being said, it is certainly possible to study creative writing here, and many people do it successfully. Within those literature and poetry classes, there are often opportunities to write creatively, and as you become an upper classman, you begin to have opportunities to work individually with professors on creative work.
The senior lit students just had their reading of their senior projects on Wednesday, and out of 6 students, 4 of them wrote something relatively creative, from a historical fiction novel based on a Don Quixote character, to a collection of poems about smoking translated from Spanish to English.
Creative writing here is something you have to work for and persevere at on your own, but all of the lit faculty here are fantastic published writers, and their input on your work is super valuable.
Unfortunately, Bernard Cooper is not a member of the literature faculty for undergraduate students. Several of the literature faculty for our undergraduate program teach in the MFA in Writing program (which is low-residency and here when we are off at Field Work Term or summer break) and I know that faculty that teach in the MFA program have been hired to teach us undergraduates too in the past (sometimes as regular faculty and sometimes as visitors for a term or two). That being said, I wouldn’t count on Bernard Cooper being hired to teach you.
These are the literature faculty this term:
In the fall Doug Bauer teaches and I know that we are right now searching for two more literature faculty members (one of whom will be a poet).
One last thing: While the MFA program is here when most students are not, I know that I’ve had several friends who have been hired as program assistants and have gotten to stick around and sit in on lectures and readings!
FWT GOT ME FAMOUS
Before I did my final 3 weeks of Field Work Term in Spain, I worked for an online literary journal called nthWORD. Throughout January I read submissions, edited writing samples, and did some writing of my own. Ch-ch-check it out!
This was a great opportunity to gain both writing and practical experience while sharing the fruits of my labor with the world wide web.
Great question. Right now, I would say my most difficult class and my favorite are the same thing. I am currently taking a class called Masters of Style in which we read contemporary authors and then imitate their writing through our own stories (also talked about it in this question). It’s half critical, half creative, which is awesome. The discussion is always really lively and the other day my friend who is also in the class likened the part where we read imitations to “getting presents at Christmas” (I totally agree).
The difficult part comes in the mere act of having to reproduce a “master of style”. It’s very challenging and hard but worth it in the end. Doug Bauer, the professor, is always so helpful in his comments and feedback. I also, personally, am not a literature concentrate, so the experience for me has definitely been difficult but so rewarding. Studying outside my discipline is something I feel to be necessary to my work and being at Bennington, it’s encouraged.
-India K, ‘12
Hi! I am a good person to answer this because I am actually enrolled in a creative writing class right now. More on that after I explain though…
Bennington does indeed have creative writing, but the classes offered in it are considered part of the literature curriculum. To find those classes, you simply have to look through the literature curriculum and find the classes in which they talk about doing original work. Often critical classes will have a component like this, OR there will simply be an entire class dedicated to original and creative work. My friend Keenan took a class last term called “Personal Essays” where people worked on their own personal essays while reading examples and talking about them in class. That class was entirely original work. There are other classes where it is half critical half creative. You just need to be willing to really dive into the curriculum. Doing that though shouldn’t be hard, as the typical Bennington student will read every area of the curriculum when it comes out and not just their concentrations. That’s what being here does to you.
Most writing classes are higher level ones because at Bennington a large part of being a student is ‘good readers make good writers’ and vice versa, so the classes ask for a high caliber of work.
The class I am currently in is called Masters of Style and it is honestly one of the best classes I have ever taken here. We read contemporary authors who have distinct and original styles of writing and then we attempt to imitate their writing with our own stories. It’s challenging but I find I have been learning a lot about my own writing through doing this. Today I actually read out loud in class my imitation of Alice McDermott’s “That Night”, and before that I did an imitation of E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime.”
I hope that is helpful! Feel free to message me if you have more questions.