A blog for Bennington writers past and present.
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I’ve only taken one philosophy class — Global Ethics / Global Justice — but it was a good time and you know what? I’d recommend it. There are a wide range of topics in philosophy, from contemporary ethics and political philosophy to the ancient Greeks. Check out our course offerings here, I think that’s the best way to get a sense of the department. But really the ‘program’ is just the teachers and you can check them out here: we have two core faculty, Paul and Karen — get a sense of what work they’ve done, but also their physical appearances. Look at Karen’s cool cup! You can’t tell from the picture, but Paul has a cool accent. I think our discussion-based courses are perfect for philosophy; Paul likes to force people to take allegiances and then argue with one another in a way that isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Seniors in philosophy have the opportunity to workshop a massive original thesis of their own in a small class setting.
So basically everything Alan said about philosophy holds true for Literature as well. All the professors are published authors, so you should go read their books. I recommend Annabel’s The Fox’s Walk. Check out the courses offered here. Courses usually focus on a particular style, time period, or group of authors. For example, I’ve taken Lit + Philosophy of Innocence, Literary Diaries and Journals, Lit of WWI, Reading and Writing Satire, and next term I’m taking Honors Seminar on Orwell. Like Philosophy, you can be part of a senior projects class where you and your fellow senior lit nerds will workshop your respective theses, lyric essays, novels, or collections of poems. Get at me if you’ve got more specific questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I answered this question in a really pretentious way a few months ago, but its still worth reading. I’ll be a bit more pragmatic this time around.
Our literature faculty is awesome. They have a wide range of expertise and are constantly coming up with interesting course offerings that keep us engaged. You’ll never take “Survey of American Literature”, instead you’ll be in “Fitzgerald and Hemmingway” or my favorite example “If this be a Man: Italian Writers Under the Nazis” (Take that class. Just take it.) The emphasis is on learning to read well, and you will. All of the faculty members read a little differently and emphasize different things. Because each approaches novels differently, you’ll naturally fall in with some favorites that you jive with, but its great to step outside your comfort zone. The more you do, the more holistic your own approach will be. Having said that, I actually just want to study with Kathleen Dimmick until the end of time. After learning to read well, you can explore some of the upper level writing courses, like “Reading and Writing the Short Story”, or “Reading and Writing Poetry”. As a senior, you’ll complete advanced work: a thesis, poems, short stories or a novel. And it will be so much fun.
On top of that, all of our literature faculty are accomplished authors, writers and poets…here is Michael Dumanis reading some of his original work:
We get these types of inquiries a lot. A lot a lot. And I think they are particularly fascinating ones, because they call into question what it means to receive an education in writing. As a student who primarily studies creative writing at Bennington, I have a lot of feeeeeeelings (bennington students have so many feelings) about the preconceptions formed around learning to write well, and (as Chekhov preached) from the heart. Just warning you guys this is going to be long. Sorry…but I think this is important!
Firstly, we do not lack a creative writing program; it is simply integrated into our literature program. To be a good writer, you need to learn to read closely and attentively— you want to learn from the best, right? (You know who is the best? Flaubert is the best. Ok getting off topic.) So, most of our creative writing courses are focused around specific texts: for instance, the incredible Brooke Allen is currently teaching a class called Reading and Writing Satire, in which students both (you guessed it) read and write satire in order to further comprehend the style. Because they are all working on projects with similar tones, they gain a greater understanding of how to critique one another’s work. What I find is missing in most general workshop courses is a shared vocabulary, because everybody’s work is coming from a different context. It’s hard to critique a piece when you don’t fundamentally understand the rules of its making.
I took a class with Michael Dumanis last term called Reading and Writing Poetry, and I honestly believe it was one of the most exhilarating, emotionally exhausting, and challenging courses I’ve ever taken at Bennington. I had a lot of experience with poetry, but it totally opened my eyes to the vastness of the medium. (And, now, one of the students in that course has just been accepted as a new member of the Poetry Foundation. Another was chosen to attend the Bucknell Seminar for Young Poets…get it laydayz!)
Due to the nature of the Plan Process, you don’t go into a writing course and simply create work in order to fulfill assignments. You will bring to each class your own interests, and write what is applicable to you. For instance, I’m currently interested in writing about familial relationships, and how illness affects them…so it doesn’t really matter which course I’m taking, because I’m going to apply what I learn to those themes in some way. Bennington’s courses provide an excellent opportunity to expand your writing beyond a voice that is comfortable for you (gotta take risks, yo), as well as get quality one-on-one time with faculty members (who are working writers, might I add…so they know what’s up), as well as your best critics, aka your peers.
If you want to write, you will write. Some people need more of a push to do it, but I truly don’t believe you must attend a straight up seminar. You don’t need to take a poetic workshop over and over again to produce poetry. You just need the impetus to put the pen to the paper — to go out in the world, to observe with a keen and fascinated eye. Many students here write PROLIFICALLY (it’s actually insane…I know somebody who just wrote a thesis for fun) on their own, simply because they feel the passion to do so. And there are resources available, not only to hone and improve work, but also to have work read, which is honestly one of the most important tools you can get from a college campus (particularly if you take interest in playwriting, amirite?).
So, what I’m saying is, it’s good to be a writer at Bennington College. Come on over and we can talk about it more (I’m fairly easy to spot).
If I were interested in the facts, I would be a journalist. But I’m interested in the truth, so I’m a poet.
I may not be in a place to answer that kind of question (considering it is 9 am in the morning), but I know an old dude (and a new lady) who gave it a shot. Why don’t you check out the I-can-only-say-*titillating* contemporary adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, reworked and renewed by Bennington’s latest visiting poet, Mary Jo Bang. You’ll see that, at the end of the day, what matters most is that we’re all going to the same place.
So, which circle of hell would you rather prefer? Cheers!
— Parke ‘15
Silver fox, right?! I just took my first-ever poetry class with him on German poetry - specifically Rilke, Trakl, and Celan - and it was simply splendid. I was initially scared as heck about taking a poetry class, but he’s so approachable and funny and kind and brilliant. When I met him with to discuss my midterm, he was really encouraging, helpful, and overall CHILL (he immediately gave me a crash course on metre, and then we proceeded to bond over our Lamy fountain pens). He’s given me some of the most valuable constructive criticism I’ve ever received. But anywho, you can probably get away with emailing him. He can be found at email@example.com. Definitely mention Plath.
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.