Writing

Sarah Lawrence College offers a vibrant community of writers and probably the largest writing faculty available to undergraduates anywhere in the country. We offer courses in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—encouraging students to explore an array of perspectives and techniques that will extend their writing ability whatever their preferred genre. In workshops, students share their writing in a supportive atmosphere. In conferences, teachers provide students with close, continual mentoring and guidance. Visits from guest writers, who give public readings and lectures throughout the year, are an important component of the curriculum.

Our writing classes are equitable forums for free and open expression that encourage experimentation, play, and risk-taking in students' writing and reading. Accordingly, faculty members do not provide trigger or content warnings. We believe that students are invigorated, not harmed, by contact with art and ideas that challenge and disturb. We favor inquiry over censure, discussion over suppression, and understand both to be an important part of a student’s education in the art of writing. We seek to foster a community of writers whose members draw inspiration from their artistic and intellectual differences as much as from their areas of agreement.

Sarah Lawrence College also takes full advantage of its proximity to the New York City literary scene, with its readings, literary agencies, publishing houses, and bookstores, as well as its wealth of arts and culture. The city provides fertile ground for internships in which students can use their writing training in educational programs, schools, publishing houses, small presses, magazines, and nonprofit arts agencies.

Writing 2022-2023 Courses

First-Year Studies: W/E: The Making of the Complete Lover, West/East

FYS—Year | 10 credits

The known universe has one complete lover, and that is the greatest poet. —Walt Whitman

This class will aim to provide a writer’s introduction to poetry, as seen through the cultural lenses of what’s been called the “East” and what’s been called the “West.” While keeping faith with the sacred jazz ethic of improvisation, we’re likely to spend our class time: (a) discussing questions like what is a poem, what is taste, what is the “East,” and what is the “West,” and how have those constructs influenced writers and readers; (b) getting to know each other as readers and writers and working collaboratively; and (c) doing writing exercises as practicum. In weekly conferences, we’ll discuss college and look at your drafts—mostly of poems, along with some critical writing about our shared texts—particularly Edward Said’s Orientalism and Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return. Along the way, I’ll ask you to participate in readings at each term’s middle and end; compile an anthology and a chapbook; work with a partner and introduce his/her work; and contribute to a collective zuihitsu, a Japanese form combining what's been called “poetry” and what‘s been called “prose.” (We’ll be reading two versions of Narrow Road to the Interior: Basho’s from the 17th century and Kimiko Hahn’s from 2006.) The only prerequisites are a passion for reading that equals your passion for writing, the courage to give up spectatorhood for active participation, and a willingness to undertake whatever might be necessary to read and write and think better on our last day of class than on our first.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Fiction Workshop: Writing and the American Racial Imaginary

FYS—Year | 10 credits

In what ways have American writers and artists rendered the felt experience of race and racial inequality? How might we understand race and racism not only as social forces but also as imaginative ones? And how might we productively grapple, contend, and engage with our own positions as artists and citizens within these historical and imaginative legacies? In other words, how might we fruitfully think about what Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda have recently called—in their anthology of the same name—“the racial imaginary”? Over the course of this yearlong creative writing workshop, students will be asked to explore the American racial imaginary by examining writing in a variety of genres and disciplines—from short stories to personal essays and poetry, as well as academic criticism and historical scholarship—in the interest of producing and workshopping their own original writings. Students will have biweekly individual conferences with the instructor and biweekly group conferences devoted to workshopping, watching films, or attending lectures through the Writing Colloquium or the MFA program’s series of guest lectures.

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First-Year Studies: A Life in Fiction, the Craft of Fiction

FYS—Year | 10 credits

This yearlong class will be an exploration of both writing and reading fiction. We will learn to read as writers—looking at how the thing is made—and how, through writing, meaning is shaped in fiction. In the fall semester, full attention will be given to the short story. We will develop our craft through weekly exercises and experiments in form, character, narrative, stance, authority, point of view, dialogue, scene, situation, style, tropes, and syntax. Additionally, memory as a tool will be considered—both the writer’s memory as it is reimagined/reinvented in a work of fiction (family memory, historical memory) and the use of memory inside a work of fiction (character memory, place memory, historical memory). Students will develop stories from first draft through at least one revision. Conference work will involve additional reading and the completion of at least one additional short story.

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First-Year Studies: Reading and Writing Personal Essays

FYS—Year | 10 credits

This first-year seminar will comprise workshops focusing on reading and writing personal essays. Each semester will be divided into three units, each corresponding to a particular kind of essay. Students will read published work and discuss one another’s work. The units in the first semester will be: People You Know, or essays about figures in the writers’ lives; Place, or essays in which setting figures prominently; and what I call the PCJ essay—Personal in the Critical/Journalistic. In the PCJ form, the personal story intertwines with a well-known outside subject—for example, a book, a film, or an event—and the two elements combine to form a third, an insight, which would not be possible without the first two. The units in the second semester will be: Demons, or essays about writers’ personal challenges, internal or external; The Braided Essay, or works that combine seemingly unrelated elements to form a coherent whole; and The Critical Survey, or critical takes on items in a category or genre (for example, five albums that came out this year, or a ranking of Quentin Tarantino films, or a ranking of the last five presidents). During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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Writing Colloquium

Open, Lecture—Fall | 2 credits

Each session of this multidisciplinary series of weekly craft talks and generative writing sessions will be taught by a different member of our writing faculty. For example, April Mosolino will talk about “How to Tell a Lie”; Marie Howe, about “The Art of the Sentence”; and Marek Fuchs, about “How to Get a Bead on Your Lead.” (See the complete list of talks in the syllabus, available on MySLC.) This series is meant to familiarize you with various aspects of craft in our different disciplines of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, as well as to stimulate your own writing. Each writer will assign readings and exercises for his/her week. There will be a class board on MySLC to post your assignments and for you to read and respond to each other’s writing.

Details Useful to the State: Writers and the Shaping of the US Empire, 1945 to the Present

Open, Small Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

Are you going to ask where I am? I’ll tell you—giving only details useful to the State... —Pablo Neruda, Letter to Miguel Otero Silva, 1948

What might it mean for a writer to be useful to a state? How have states used writers, witting and unwitting, in projects aimed at influence and hegemony? How might a state make use of language as a weapon? What might it mean for a writer to attempt to avoid being useful to a state? How might a state inflect and influence the intimacy between writers and what they may write? In this class, we’ll discuss an array of choices that writers have made in relation to state power, focusing particularly on the United States from just after World War II until the present. You’ll be asking to read four books: Joel Whitney’s Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers; Frances Stonor Saunders’sThe Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters; Eric Bennett’s Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle, and American Creative Writing During the Cold War; and Peter Dale Scott’s long poem, Coming to Jakarta. This is not a history or a literature class; our lens will be that of a writer, using deep study and playful practice to figure out the dilemmas and best practices of the present. Although this is a lecture class, with a limit of 30 students, you’ll be asked to participate, improvise, and do some class reading and writing work with a partner, as well as to participate in one group conference a week. At the end of the class, you’ll be asked to lecture in teams, addressing some of our questions and your responses to them. The only prerequisite is the courage to think out loud with other people—a.k.a. the courage required to learn.

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The Art of the Short Story

Open, Small Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

In this lecture class, we’ll look at the short story from the mid-19th century to today. Among the writers we'll read are Isaac Babel, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Kathleen Collins, Anton Chekhov, Percival Everett, Carolyn Ferrell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Gaitskill, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, D. H. Lawrence, Carmen Maria Machado, Katherine Mansfield, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lorrie Moore, ZZ Packer, Grace Paley, George Saunders, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Virginia Woolf. We’ll also read criticism, letters, and a little bit of theory. In our group conferences, students will share very short stories, written in response to prompts, in a supportive atmosphere.

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Narrative Strategies: Reading Fiction as a Writer

Open, Small Lecture—Spring | 5 credits

There are many ways to read a book (or an essay, or a story, or a poem). We can read for pleasure or for edification, to be enlightened or to be moved. We can read to accumulate facts, to frame an argument, to inform a paper we’re writing. But reading fiction as a fiction writer is a special kind of reading. Writers—especially young writers who are trying to absorb and understand craft—must read a work not only to appreciate its merits but also to see how it was constructed, what conceits it puts into play, what narrative strategies it’s employing. This lecture class will endeavor to break down stories and novels from this writerly perspective and to tease out the craft-level decisions that create a work of fiction’s overall effect. Our weekly class sessions—which I am thinking of more as large-seminar conversations, not as one-way lectures—will revolve around short novels and short stories that use one of four engines to generate their energies: language, structure, voice, or ideas. Our reading list will likely include Cormac McCarthy, Ottessa Moshfegh, Han Kang, Akwaeke Emezi, Harlan Ellison, Dawn Raffel, Laszlow Krasznahorkai, Franz Kafka, and Ted Chiang, among others. Each of our discussions will culminate in a weekly writing prompt that will be posted to a class Slack channel. Group conferences will be used to share some of these prompt responses aloud, to discuss how putting different narrative strategies into practice deepens our relationship to our reading, and to (occasionally) generate new work. The course’s ideal student will be curious about the borders of fiction and interested in exploring many approaches to the blank page without privileging any one of them. Aside from this necessary curiosity, the course has no prerequisites.

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First-Year Studies: Fiction Writing Workshop; The Basics not Excluding the Virtuosic

Seminar—Year | 10 credits

In this yearlong workshop, we will meet twice a week in 90-minute seminars. Every other week, you and I will meet in individual conferences; in the alternate weeks, we will participate in a group activity. During the first weeks together, we will walk through the process of writing a story. Where does the story come from? How do we know when we are ready to begin? How do we avoid succumbing to safe and unoriginal decisions and learn to recognize and trust our more mysterious and promising impulses? How do our characters guide the work? How do we come to know an ending, and how do we earn that ending? And, finally, how do we create the enchantment necessary to involve, persuade, and move the reader in the ways that fiction is most capable. Our course will investigate the craft of fiction through readings, discussion, and numerous exercises. Eventually, each of you will settle on a semester writing project. In the second half of each semester, you will discuss and critique each other’s drafts in successive workshops—first just a few pages, then full first drafts, and finally your well-developed stories or chapters. In the spring semester, we move on to explore dream narratives, the sublime, the absurd, and the fantastic. We study a democratically chosen novel and, possibly, graphic fiction. Our objective is for you to write, revise, and workshop at least one fully developed story each semester. Examples of our group activities are watching a film together or attending one of our writing colloquium sessions in which various writing faculty members present some aspect of the writing process and give you writing exercises that we will share in our next class meeting.

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Fiction

Fiction Workshop: Subject Matter, Voice, Form, Purpose

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

What does it mean to be a writer today? How do we find our subject matter, our voices, our forms? The writer Paula Whyman observed, “Art in its many forms can give voice to our concerns, hopes, fears, anxieties—and joys. Art can provide solace. It can spur engagement. It can increase understanding. It can help us feel less alone.” Through weekly reading and writing assignments, we will begin the journey toward understanding who we can be as fiction writers. We’ll explore questions of technique and craft, starting with: Who decides what craft is? What makes a story a story? How does one go from word to sentence to paragraph to scene? Does there always need to be transformation? Can structure shape content? The workshop will be divided between discussions of student stories and of published fiction writers, including Carmen Maria Machado, George Saunders, Sarah Moss, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, among others. We’ll also read essays on craft by authors such as Richard Russo, Matthew Salesses, Roxane Gay, and Robin Hemley, who ask us to pay attention to larger cultural questions. From the start, we will work on developing our constructive criticism. When developed in a supportive atmosphere, our critiques should help us better grasp the workings of our stories and see what they can be in the world.

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Fiction Workshop

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

Nabokov stated that there are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. We will consider all three, but it is with the art of enchantment that this workshop is most dedicated. In the first semester, you will acquaint yourselves with such basic elements of fiction as point of view, character, plot and structure, dialogue and exposition, detail, and scene. We will study these elements as put into practice by a wide range of virtuosic writers: Jamaica Kincaid, Donald Barthelme, ZZ Packer, James Baldwin, Raymond Ken Liu, Carmen Maria Machado, Tobias Wolff, and Gina Bierault, among others. We will also familiarize ourselves with concepts related to the craft and imaginative process of fiction, such as counterpoint characterization, defamiliarization, narrative urgency, etc. The core of the course is the students’ own development as fiction writers. We have a lot of fun trying numerous exercises and approaches to stories. In conference, we work closely on your writing; we will develop your crafting of scenes at first, then meet in small groups to workshop your first drafts. You are responsible for writing critiques for each other’s stories, as well as for participating thoughtfully and actively in the workshop discussion. By the end of the semester, each of you will present at least one final developed story for our workshop discussion. In the second semester, we will venture into more unlikely fictional territories: dream narratives, preposterous situations served up matter-of-factly, unscary ghost stories, speculative fiction, and virtuosic works that elude comprehension but deliver you to the profound and pleasurable edges of apprehension. To jar us from our more prosaic and safe forms of fiction, we will begin the semester with a series of exercises inspired by the stories of authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Borges, Nabokov, George Saunders, Carmen Maria Machado, and Octavia Butler, as well as essays by Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, and Charles Baxter. You will generate your conference work from the readings and exercises; develop it through close critique in our classes and conferences; present first drafts in preliminary workshops; and, finally, submit your best work in a series of formal workshops at the end of the semester.

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Fiction Workshop

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

All great stories are built with good sentences. In this workshop, students will create short stories or continue works-in-progress that will be read and discussed by their peers. Class sessions will focus on constructive criticism of the writer’s work, and students will be encouraged to ask the questions with which all writers grapple: What makes a good story? Have I fully developed my characters? And does my language convey the ideas that I want? We will talk about the writer’s craft in this class—how people tell stories to each other, how to find a plot, and how to make a sentence come to life. This workshop should be seen as a place where students can share their thoughts and ideas in order to then return to their pages and create a completed imaginary work. There will also be some short stories and essays on the art of writing that will set the tone and provide literary fodder for the class.

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Fiction Workshop

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

Fiction is a gigantic cargo train that can hold…anything. Some fiction is psychological. Some is philosophical. There are social novels and historical novels. And some writers of fiction find inspiration in science. You can take the fiction train wherever your imagination lays tracks. You can write whatever you want, but you should consider this class only if you want to write. Motivation will be assumed rather than provided. Note, too, that the structure and texture of your work—from its word choices to its sentences and syntax—will be judged by everyone in the room. Criticism is essential to this class, the aim of which is to create an inner editor who will make the class itself retroactively superfluous.

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Writing and Reading Fiction

Open, Seminar—Fall and Spring | 5 credits

A novelist once began a lecture by asking how many people in the audience wanted to be writers. When almost everyone raised a hand, he said, “So why the hell aren’t you home writing?” The novelist was asking the right question. The only way to improve as a writer is to write a lot. You might have all the talent in the world. You might have had a thousand fascinating experiences. But talent and experience won’t get you very far unless you have the ability to sit down, day after day, and write. Accordingly, my main goal is to encourage you to develop or sustain the habit of steady writing. You’ll be sharing a very short story with the class every week in response to prompts that I’ll provide, and you’ll be producing an additional longer story for conference every two weeks. We’ll also be learning from writers who have come before us, reading a mix of classic and contemporary writers that include Anton Chekhov, Jennifer Egan, Percival Everett, Henry James, Toni Morrison, ZZ Packer, Philip Roth, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Virginia Woolf.

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Words and Pictures

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This is a course with writing at its center and other arts—mainly, but not exclusively, visual—around it. We will read all kinds of narratives, children’s books, folk tales, fairy tales, graphic novels...and try our hand at many of them. Class reading will include everything from ancient Egyptian love poems to contemporary Latin American literature. For conference work, students have created graphic novels, animations, quilts, a scientifically accurate fantasy involving bugs, rock operas, items of clothing with text attached, nonfiction narratives, and dystopian fictions with pictures. There will be weekly assignments that involve making something. This course is especially suited to students with an interest in another art or a body of knowledge that they’d like to make accessible to nonspecialists.

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Children’s Books: A Reading and Writing Adventure

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Who doesn’t love Frog and Toad? Have you ever wanted to write something like it—or like Charlotte’s Web or A Snowy Day? Why do our favorites work so well and so (almost) universally? We will begin by reading books we know and books we missed and discuss what makes them so good. We may look at books for older children and consider what good children’s history and biography might be like. We will talk about the place of the visual, the careful and conscious use of language, notions of appropriateness, and age level. Then, we will try our hand at writing picture books, older children’s narratives, collections of poems like Mother Goose. Conference work will involve making a book, an animation, or a game for children with narrative content.

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Building a Better Matrix: A Fiction Writing Workshop

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

A blank page is not a physical construction site, and worlds created from language are not “real” in the way that an apple is real. Whether you are writing traditional realist short fiction, or working with magical elements, or making wildly experimental language art, you’re manipulating a matrix—one that, if established with sufficient rigor, creates the illusion of substance from the ether of abstraction. Why, then, is there a seemingly widespread agreement that realism is the “most real” kind of illusion? This workshop will begin from the following assumptions: All fiction is speculative fiction; a story is beholden to nothing other than its own internal logic; logic does not need to sync to the logic of “the real world” (whatever that may mean); and experimentation is not a barrier to Truth (with a capital “t”). We’ll be reading some of the most innovative and surprising fiction being written today and seeking out—through our own weekly writing prompts—the limits of what we call fiction. Our reading list will include a short, unorthodox novel or two (Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid are both strong possibilities), as well as short stories by writers including Julio Cortazar, Carmen Maria Machado, Ottessa Moshfegh, Etgar Keret, Jonathan Callahan, Franz Kafka, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Angela Carter. Over the course of the semester, each student will workshop one original story. We will be writing often, reading great and inimitable works, and attempting to create a community that values experimentation and play in the creation of short fiction. The idea is to honor fiction’s myriad possibilities and to applaud any fictional matrix that arrives to us free of glitches. The only prerequisites are generosity, curiosity, and open-mindedness.

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Fiction Workshop: Portraiture

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

What is a character? How do you portray a person? And what does it mean to do so? The history of literature is full of eponymous works—Don Quixote, Tristam ShandyDavid Copperfield, to name but a canonical few—works that often seek to examine a single character or consciousness over time. “Character studies,” or “portraiture,” might be another way of describing such writing, in which a writer brings all of his or her energies to bear upon the art of representing “other people”—and in which the machinations of “plot” take a relative back seat to questions of “character” (and all that such a character might reveal). In this course, we will look at examples of “literary portraiture” in the hopes of generating our own. Our readings will include classics of the form (Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Saul Bellow’s Herzog, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior), as well as relatively contemporary examples (Evan Connell’s Mrs. Bridge, John Williams’s Stoner, Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding, Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder, Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants). Throughout the course, we will be asking questions about what makes a plausible character or interior life in writing, what tools are available at writers’ disposal in their attempts to portray “other people,” and what’s often at stake in such efforts. Through close readings of published work, individual conferences, generative writing exercises, and workshops of each other’s writing, students will work toward crafting and presenting their own work of portraiture by the end of the term.

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The Voice: A Fiction Workshop

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This workshop will focus on the process of finding and deepening voice as the vernacular of your imagination. We will build stories and their inhabitants using source material that is meaningful to each of us: literature, of course, but also music, film and video, visual art, semiotics, fashion, architecture, games, urban myths, family lore and history, our ever-shifting identities, and more. We will work toward writing the voices that feel most true to us and shaping stories based on our own visions for narrative itself. We will read work by writers such as Samuel Beckett, Jayne Ann Phillips, Virginia Woolf, Mitchell S. Jackson, Garielle Lutz, Carmen Maria Machado, Robert Lopez, D. Foy, and Shelly Oria. We will also listen to music, watch videos and excerpted films, look at art, and examine popular culture and our own families as if we were anthropologists. We will work to shed ideas of what we should be writing and discover what’s already inside us ready to be written.

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Speculative Fiction Workshop

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Speculative fiction is a blanket term for writing that speculates on a world unlike our own. Sci-fi, fantasy, and horror are a few of the best-known categories; but speculative fiction also encompasses the uncategorizable—work that challenges our understanding of causality, time, the self, the mind, and the cosmos…or that just barely cracks the surface of the familiar, allowing the weird to seep through. At its best, speculative fiction uses imagination and metaphor to explore ideas and facets of the human experience that would otherwise remain unexpressed. In this course, we will read short stories and novels by mostly contemporary speculative-fiction authors, with a writerly eye for technique. We will also workshop fiction by students; discuss process and goals; and form a supportive, constructive community where even the wildest visions can flourish.

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Art and Activism: Contemporary Black Writers

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Toni Morrison once wrote, “If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic.” She referred to the interior life of her ancestors as being a large (perhaps the largest?) charge that she, as an author, faced; the characters she created—in part from pictures, in part from the imaginative act—yielded “a kind of truth.” We are experiencing a new age of Black artists and activists, charging the world to heed their own truths; as writers, we’ll delve into the fullness of their experiences. Nana Ama Adjei-Brenyah brings magical realism to the doorstep of our daily lives; Edward P. Jones establishes setting as character, garnering comparisons to James Joyce. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay posit large questions about writing and Black identity, while Nafissa Thompson-Spires uses satire to address themes of class and culture; and both Danielle Evans and Jamel Brinkley write in a charged realist tradition that is RIEBY (my new acronym: right in everybody’s back yard!). Class readings will include essays on technique, short stories, and memoir. We’ll discuss the elements of craft as they pertain to the published literature, as well as to our own work. This workshop will also have, at its heart, the discussion of student manuscripts and the development of constructive criticism. Talking about race, talking about craft, and talking about our own fiction should occur in an environment where everyone feels valued and supported. The road may be bumpy at times, but how else to get to that truth that Toni Morrison so prized?

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Episodes

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

The use of the episode is both ancient and modern and is central to storytelling in everything from The Arabian Nights to telenovelas, from Netflix to The Canterbury Tales, from comics to true-crime podcasts. Episodes differ from chapters in a novel and from short stories and can have many changing characters and plot lines. Episodes are disinclined toward resolution but love time, hunks of it, and do well depicting both the daily and the historical. We will be reading, looking at, and discussing episodes in several forms and, for conference work, writing six episodes over the semester, supported by small brainstorming groups as we go forward. This course may be taken with Words and Pictures as a year course.

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Writing and Producing Audio Fiction Podcasts

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

The goal of this class is to start a revolution. We are currently in a robust audio industry, one that surprisingly thrived during COVID-19. Even as podcasting continues to grow into the stratosphere, there is a problem: The field is dominated by nonfiction. Our goal is to change that. In this class, students will learn to write and produce groundbreaking contemporary audio dramas and, eventually, attempt to sell them to a network. We will listen to works from venerable podcasts, such as Welcome to Night Vale, The Truth, Homecoming, Black Tapes, and Bright Sessions. We will also listen to audio fiction from collectives like Mermaid Palace that explicitly address identity and sexuality to challenge the status quo. And we will create our own critical discourse for contemporary audio drama—analyzing writings and essays from the fields of screenwriting, sound art, contemporary music, and literature—to help understand and analyze the works that we are creating. Creators from Welcome to Night Vale, Mermaid Palace, and Audible will join our discussions to talk about their stories and production processes. Throughout the semester, students will make works and create their own podcasts. At the end of the semester, students will pitch their fiction ideas to audio executives at Audible—and, who knows, maybe land a development deal.

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Encounters With the Novel

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Classes in which writing students read published fiction, rather than sharing their own work, are usually called craft classes. I don’t like the term, because I think it overstates the degree to which literary craft matters. Most of the time, it seems to me, when we fall in love with a novel, it’s not because it did clever things with chronology or setting or point of view but because it gave us that telltale tingle down the spine (in Nabokov’s words) or handed us an axe to break the frozen sea within us (in Kafka’s). Craft may be something that we can teach ourselves in a step-by-step manner; literary intelligence, a more elusive quality, is something that we can hope to develop only by writing as much as we can, reading as much as we can, and thinking and feeling as fully as we can. (”One good heartbreak will furnish the poet with many songs and the novelist with a considerable number of novels,” wrote Edith Wharton. “But they must have hearts that can break.”) I don't have a treasure chest of craft lessons to offer in this class; my hope is simply that, if we spend the semester reading ambitious novels and talking about them as fellow writers, we’ll all learn something by the end. We'll spend our time in class talking about novels by writers including Jennifer Egan, Henry James, Nella Larsen, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and Edith Wharton,  and excerpts of novels by George Eliot, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Leo Tolstoy. In conference, we’ll be looking at your writing. You’ll be asked to give me a finished short story or novel excerpt every two weeks.

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The Rules—and How to Break Them: A Prose Process Class

Open, Large seminar—Spring | 5 credits

In this class, we will interrogate and test the rules for writing fiction. We’ll look at how some writers explode those rules—and we’ll see how we can do the same in our own writing by asking questions. What does it mean when we ask what’s at stake in a story? What makes dialogue believable? How do we create embodied characters? What makes an ending resonate? How do we build cohesive worlds? What is a beginning? An end? With an eye toward playfully disrupting the rules of fiction, we’ll use lists, footnotes, erasures, numbering, and omissions; we’ll study verb mood, unexpected points of view, and tense; and we’ll collaborate on other formulae that can help us and our readers find new paths to our imaginations. Students will work with writing assignments, play writing games, and do in-class exercises to generate narratives. Most conferences will be small-group meetings, with time set aside for individual conferences as well. Conference work will focus on expanding and fine-tuning what we have written; each student will finish the semester with several complete pieces of fiction. We will read work by authors such as Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Yasunari Kawabata, Gari Lutz, Anton Chekhov, Elizabeth Crane, Padgett Powell, Katherine Anne Porter, Octavia Butler, Robert Lopez, Matthew Sharpe, Renee Gladman, D. Foy, Stefanie Sobelle, and members of the Oulipo movement.

Faculty

Stories And

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This class will involve telling stories, writing or recording our own and other people’s stories, and illustrating stories with photos or drawings. It involves becoming collectors of the storytelling around us and analyzing its form, type, uses, and pleasures. It centers on oral storytelling—formal and informal, short and long, fantasies, tales, family stories, and gossip. It also involves practice in being both a leader and a member of a storytelling group at the Wartburg Elder Care Residence in nearby Pelham or at some other venue, perhaps involving children or teens. Homework will include reading, practicing your stories, working as a group leader with a classmate, and calling on family and friends to tell their stories. Anyone interested in their own or other people’s lives, in leadership and followership, in teaching, and otherwise in stories should consider this course.

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Nonfiction

Wrongfully Accused

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

Long-form investigative journalism has opened many doors, perhaps most literally in America’s penal system where journalists have regularly revealed—and freed—the wrongfully convicted. This class will set out to expose the innocence (or confirm the guilt) of a man or woman convicted of a controversial murder or other serious felony. Working collectively and using all of the tools and traditions of investigative journalism, the class will attempt to pull out all known and unknown threads of the story to reveal the truth. Was our subject wrongfully accused? Or are his or her claims of innocence an attempt to game the system? The class will interview police, prosecutors, and witnesses, as well as friends and family of the victim and of the accused. The case file will be examined in depth. A long-form investigative piece will be produced, complete with multimedia accompaniment.

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After Nature: On Writing the Environment

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

The philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term “solastalgia” to refer to the distress caused by climate change. In this yearlong writing seminar, we will attempt, in a collective way, to write through our feelings about the changing world. Students will keep weekly notebooks about paying attention to plants, animals, weather, and place, culminating in writing through their encounters with the outside world. These responses will be catalyzed by reading ecological meditations that function, in many ways, as elegies that think through landscape, time, and our kinship with the nonhuman. The project is for our reading and writing to somehow counter, but also work through, despair with radical hope and imagination. The final conference project for each semester will be a finished piece of writing that has been critiqued in several drafts in conference, collaborative small groups, and a full-group workshop over the semester. This course fully participates in the collaborative interludes in the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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Narrative Podcasting and Production

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

We are living in “The Golden Age of Narrative Audio.” Shows like This American Life, Radiolab, and numerous other story-driven shows not only dominate podcasts and airwaves but also have created the paradigm for shows like 99% Invisible, Love + Radio, and many others. We’ve also entered the age of the serialized podcast with limited-run series and others put out by podcast companies like Audible, Spotify, Gimlet, First Look Media, WNYC Studios, and so many others. This class will teach students the practicalities of how narrative audio podcasting works, while we explore what this narrative movement means. Students will learn practicalities; e.g., pitching both multipart and narrative stories, using the actual “call for stories” from studios and shows like This American Life and Radiolab and from audio companies like Audible and Spotify; the fundamentals of how to record and mix stories using the latest digital-editing technology; what narrative editors expect in a series; and the skills necessary for a podcast internship. We will also reflect on the theoretical and ethical considerations for this “Golden Age of Narrative Audio.” We will ask questions, such as: How does imposing narrative structures affect nonfiction storytelling? How do narrative shows deal with ethical missteps? What does it mean to have “a voice”? Does it matter who gets to tell the story? (Answer on the last question is “yes.” We’ll discuss why.) Producers, editors, and freelancers for This American Life, Audible, Radiolab, and others will visit the class to provide insight into their shows and answer student questions—and students will pitch audio executives their ideas at the end of the course.

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Writing About the Arts

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This class will examine and produce a range of work from the journalistic to the critical, from the practical to the mystical, in the vast landscape of arts writing. We will write liner notes, catalogue copy for gallery shows, short reviews, long reviews, critical essays, and deep and subjective interior meditations on our experience of artists and their work. We will read broadly across time—possibly including, but not limited to, Samuel Johnson on Richard Savage, Wordsworth and Coleridge on themselves, Nietzsche on Wagner, Adorno (via Thomas Mann) on Opus 111, V. S. Naipaul on Flaubert, Amiri Baraka on Billie Holiday, Virginia Woolf on Thomas Hardy, Thomas De Quincey on Shakespeare, James Baldwin on Richard Wright, Glenn Gould on Barbra Streisand, Mark Strand on Edward Hopper, Jean-Luc Godard on Nicholas Ray, Pauline Kael on Sam Peckinpah. Students should feel confident in their familiarity with one or two art forms, broadly understood, and should expect, along with the reading, to write several small and two larger (7-12 pages) pieces. Conference work will comprise research projects on those artists or works of art, or both, that class members, in consultation with the instructor, decide are their special province.

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Creative Nonfiction

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This is a course for creative writers who are interested in exploring nonfiction as an art form. We will focus on reading and interpreting outside work—essays, articles, and journalism by some of our best writers—in order to understand what good nonfiction is and how it is created. During the first part of the semester, writing will be comprised mostly of exercises and short pieces aimed at putting into practice what is being illuminated in the readings; in the second half of the semester, students will create longer, formal essays to be presented in workshop.

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The Source of Stories: Writing From Your Own Experience

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

The novelist John Berger once said that writers draw their material from three sources: experience, witness, and imagination. The goal of this mixed-genre workshop—which will focus on the short story, personal essay, and memoir—is for the emerging writer to find and develop his or her own subject matter. Students will be asked to explore the raw material of their lives, adding the mix of witness (what we have seen or been told) and what we invent. We begin with an assignment, based on Joe Brainard’s book, I Remember. Students make their own lists of memories of childhood and adolescence. We will turn these lists into anecdotes and scenes and eventually into stories. Students will also begin a list called “I Imagine” and, in this assignment, we will explore family lore, stories they have heard from others, or perhaps even draw from newspaper accounts. We will look at writers who have delved into their own subject matter in both fiction and nonfiction—such as James Baldwin, Sandra Cisneros, Tim O’Brien, Virginia Woolf, Paul Auster, and Lorrie Moore—and discuss the various issues posed in each form. Students will be given assignments that are intended to evoke subject matter in both genres; for example, a piece of family lore might become a short essay or a work of fiction. Students will write short stories, essays, and memoir and learn to move freely from one genre to the next, attempting to reimagine their material in different forms. The emphasis will be on voice and narrative, both of which are essential for good fiction and nonfiction. We will also spend a good deal of time learning what it means to write a scene. This is a class for any student who wants to explore the material that becomes the subject matter of stories.

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Workshop in Personal Essay

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

We write personal essays to learn about ourselves, to face our demons, to understand what entangles us, to expose the lies that we have allowed ourselves to believe, to recognize what we are running away from, to find insight, and/or to tell the truth. This workshop is designed for students interested in doing that work and learning to craft what they have written so that their readers can share in that learning. We will learn to read as writers, write as readers, and, where relevant, draw connections between writing and other creative fields such as music and film.

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A Question of Character: The Art of the Profile

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Any writer who tries to capture the likeness of another—whether in biography, history, journalism, or art criticism—must face certain questions. What makes a good profile? What is the power dynamic between subject and writer? How does a subject’s place in the world determine the parameters of what may be written about him or her? To what extent is any portrait also a self-portrait? And how can the complexities of a personality be captured in several thousand—or even several hundred—words? In this course, we will tackle the various challenges of profile writing, such as choosing a good subject, interviewing, plotting, obtaining and telescoping biographical information, and defining the role of place in the portrait. Students will be expected to share their own work, identify what they admire or despise in other writers’ characterizations, and learn to read closely many masters of the genre: Daphne Merkin, Malcolm Gladwell, Gay Talese, and Janet Malcolm. We will also turn to shorter forms of writing—personal sketches, brief reported pieces—to further illuminate what we mean when we talk about “identity” and “character.” The goal of this course is less to teach the art of profile writing than to make us all more alert to the subtleties of the form.

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True or False?

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

In this class, we will examine the much maligned but remarkably fruitful miscegenation of fiction and nonfiction. For roughly the first half of the semester, we will read and discuss works that are either composed of both fiction and nonfiction or that call such genre distinctions into question. The second half of the semester will be devoted to workshopping the students’ own mixed-genre works, the composition of which will be the primary focus of their conferences. Among the questions to be discussed in class are: What are the differing advantages of fiction and nonfiction? How does genre affect an author’s obligations to readers? Is there a clear distinction between the genres? When does blurring that distinction render thrilling art, and when does it amount to a con job? Some of the writers discussed will be Rachel Cusk, Italo Calvino, Lauren Slater, Jenny Boully and Alejandro Zambra.

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Poetry

Masks, Personas, and The Literal I

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

In this poetry writing workshop, we will look at the first-person I. Class time will be split evenly between discussing outside reading and student work. We will read books by poets who collapse the space between the poetic speaker and the author, employing a more literal I. We will read books by poets who utilize masks and personas to explore depths of honesty, thought, and feeling that might otherwise be off-limits. We will also look at a more neutral I. We will consider the different ways in which a character may be created and inhabited via syntax, diction, emotional crescendos and deflations, associative leaps, metaphors, and tonal shifts. We will strive to come to a richer understanding of the possibilities of the first person. For a conference project, students will be asked to create their own mask, a constructed first person to breathe and speak through. The reading will be, roughly, a book a week. There will be a number of short response essays to the reading. Students will be expected to write and rewrite with passion and vigor, turning in a new first draft each week and a final manuscript of 7–9 poems, three drafts for each poem.

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Hybrids of Poetry and Prose: A Multi-Genre Workshop

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

One of the exciting literary developments in recent years is the plethora of work that disrupts the notion of genre—writers such as Eula Biss, Jenny Offill, and Ben Lerner. In this workshop, we will read a book each week and consider architecture, diction, association, metaphor, and other issues of craft. Students will be required to bring in a new piece of writing each week and to occasionally write critical responses to the reading. This class will be a good fit for students who are comfortable reading 100-200 pages a week in addition to generating their own creative writing. For workshop, students can submit poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or anything in between. We will aim to locate a piece’s heat—its linguistic, figurative, and musical energy—and consider how that energy might be developed, or maximized, in subsequent drafts. Half of each class will be devoted to discussing the weekly reading; the other half will be spent discussing student work. Occasionally, we will do in-class writing exercises. There will be some take-home writing prompts. For conference, students will work on their own hybrid projects. At the end of the semester, students will turn in a revised, final portfolio with at least two earlier drafts for each piece, as well as their hybrid project.

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Explorations in the Poetic Voice

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Contemporary poets face a dazzling range of stylistic options. This course is designed to give you a grounding in the practice of modern poetics and to encourage you to innovate. We’ll look at point of view, tone of voice, imagery, the poetic line, meter, and stanza form. We’ll examine the artistic thinking behind free verse, contemporary experimental idioms, the sonnet, the ghazal, and haiku. We’ll read widely—foundational masters like Elizabeth Bishop and Gwendolyn Brooks, contemporaries like Terrance Hayes and Yusuf Komunyakaa, and poets from radically different cultures. We’ll explore The Vintage Book of African American Poetry, The Penquin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry (Rita Dove), The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, prose poems, fables, proverbs, and song lyrics. We’ll discuss how to read poetry as practitioners—how to see and hear what’s on the page. The strong, consistent focus will be on students’ own poems. Class members will be encouraged to find their own paths; reading assignments will often be individual. The class will be part humanistic workshop, part writing community, part critical inquiry. Expect to write freely and read voraciously. This course is open to anyone with a commitment to poetry.

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Poetry: On and Off the Page

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

We will read a book of poetry each week, a mix of work from the late-20th century as well as more recent texts. We will spend half of each class discussing the weekly reading and the other half discussing student work. At the end of the semester, students will turn in a portfolio of poems, with at least two earlier drafts for each poem. In addition to the reading and writing for class, students will have two major conference projects. Before spring break, each student will theatrically present a poem by a dead poet. This is more than just memorizing and reciting a poem; this is knowing a poem so well that you can speak it as if the words are springing from you. Later in the term, students will pick a location on campus and then theatrically present one of their own poems in that specific location. Both of these conference projects will require additional rehearsal time beyond class time.

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Poetry Workshop: The Zuihitsu

Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This class combines Sarah Lawrence students and students from the Bedford Correctional Facility and takes place at Bedford one night a week. Acceptance into this class is via interview only. Interviews will be held during the fall term of 2022. In order to interview, you must be 21 years old on or before January 20, 2023.

“There is nothing like a zuihitsu, and its definition slips through our fingers. It is a classical Japanese genre that allows a series of styles, and everything can be constantly reshuffled and reordered in every conceivable way,” according to Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Following Millenium.(The name is derived from two Kanji: “at will” and “pen.”) In this class, we’ll explore the poetic form of the zuihitsu as readers via three required texts—The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon and two versions of Narrow Road to the Interior, one by Bashō and one by Kimiko Hahn—and as writers, using the materials of haiku, lists, interviews, dialogues, travelogues, monologues, letters, maps, orts, scraps, fragments, and poems of all varieties. You’ll be expected to attend class, engage with assigned and suggested readings, and participate in discussions. Participants will also be required to make an individual zuihitsu and to contribute to the making of a collective one. In conference, we’ll discuss your reading, which may or may not overlap or coincide with class readings, and your drafts. In class, we’ll discuss readings as a way of guiding our own makings. The only prerequisites are to be 21 or older, as indicated above; have a desire to be challenged and a thirst for reading that equals your thirst for writing; have the courage to give up spectatorhood for active participation; and have a willingness to undertake whatever labors might be necessary to read and write better on our last day of class than on our first.

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Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. His interlocutor, Bernard Stiegler, phrases the main idea behind this statement: “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida’s observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida’s punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and, thus, craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

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Live Time-Based Art

Component—Year

In this class, graduates and upper-class undergraduates with a special interest and experience in the creation of time-based artworks that include live performance will design and direct individual projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and discuss relevant artistic and practical problems, both in class on Tuesday evenings and in conferences taking place on Thursday afternoons. Attributes of the work across multiple disciplines of artistic endeavor will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the work. Participation in mentored, critical-response feedback sessions with your peers is a key aspect of the course. The engagement with the medium of time in live performance, the constraints of presentation of the works both in works-in-progress and in a shared program of events, and the need to respect the classroom and presentation space of the dance studio will be the constraints imposed on the students’ artistic proposals. Students working within any number of live performance traditions are as welcome in this course as those seeking to transgress orthodox conventions. While all of the works will engage in some way with embodied action, student proposals need not fall neatly into a traditional notion of what constitutes dance. The cultivation of open discourse across traditional disciplinary artistic boundaries, both in the process of developing the works and in the context of presentation to the public, is a central goal of the course. The faculty members leading this course have roots in dance practice but also have practiced expansive definitions of dance within their own creative work. This course will culminate in performances of the works toward the end of the semester in a shared program with all enrolled students and within the context of winter and spring time-based art events. Performances of the works will take place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Theatre or elsewhere on campus in the case of site-specific work.

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Not for Children: Alternative Animation, 1960–present

Open, Large seminar—Spring

This seminar course will take the form of a screening and discussion seminar, designed to provide an overview of auteur animation based on alternative writing and the relationship of form and style to content. We will examine various forms of animated films produced between 1960 and the present, with some time spent on the history and cultural crosscurrents within which this work was produced. The class will survey a wide range of work from a diverse selection of artists, including Oscar Fischinger, Lotte Reiniger, Renske Mijnheer, Stacey Steers, Karen Yasinsky, Adam Beckett, Christine Panushka, Chris Sullivan, William Kindridge, Lius Cook, and many more. The focus of the class is on animated film forms alternative to commercial animation; hand-drawn, cell-painted, cutout, stop motion, pixilated, puppet, and, more recently, CGI independents. In most cases, artists retaining control of their own work—unlike the battery of decision makers in commercial studio systems—will be the guiding factor in selecting work for review. As a class, we will look for aesthetic consequences and structural differences within the auteur system vs. an animation studio’s divisions of labor. All students are expected to fully participate in discussions during class meetings. Animation production will not be taught in this class; however, creative conference projects in studio arts, writing, media, and performing arts will be encouraged. Students will be expected to conduct research outside of class; to deliver a class presentation on an area of personal interest related to the social, political, and art movements in the experimental animation genre; and to complete a conference project or paper.

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Experimental Animation: Materials and Methods

Open, Seminar—Fall

Animation is the magic of giving life to objects and materials through motion. Whether through linear storytelling or conceptual drive, a sense of wonder is achieved with materials, movement, and transformation. Combining digital processes with handmade techniques, this class helps students hone their design skills to create short works that communicate through simplicity. The emphasis of the class is on process and concept, starting with a series of workshops intended to enhance student's skills in idea generation, concept development, and material animation techniques. The class includes instruction in a variety of undercamera, stop-motion processes, including: cut-out paper animation, sequential drawing, sand, after-effects motion graphics, simple object animation, and green-screen performance for stop motion. All aspects of progressive movement are covered, especially the laying out of ideas through time and the establishment of convincing motion. The course includes instruction in basic design techniques, material manipulation, movement and timing, color, and concept development. A brief foundational study of the history of experimental animation is introduced through viewing animated film work of artists from around the globe. During the semester, each student completes five short animated films, ranging in length from 30 seconds to two minutes. Students are required to provide their own external media hard drive and to purchase some additional art materials. Software instruction includes AfterEffects, Adobe Premier, and Dragonframe. The aim of this course is to explore freely with materials in order to trailblaze fresh narrative and aesthetic possibilities in animation. Final projects may be executed as animated or hybrid films or as animated video projections for installation or performance. Collaborations with music, dance, or theatre students can be established at the incentive of individual class participants.

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Advanced Independent Studio, Animation

Advanced, Small seminar—Year

This is an advanced independent-study class for experienced animation students who wish to invest time in producing a refined animated film or a hybrid animation/video film for their portfolio. Participants should be committed to the preplanning and production of an animated work over the course of the academic year. Students will work independently, with regular individual conferences.

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Character Design

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course focuses on the concepts of character design development as a preproduction stage to animation. Students will gain knowledge in drawing by learning formal spatial concepts in order to create fully-realized characters both visually and conceptually. Through the development of character boards, model sheets, beat boards, and character animatic projects, students will draw and conceptualize human, animal, mechanical, and hybrid figures. Students will research characters in their visual, environmental, psychological, and social aspects to establish a full understanding of characterization. Both hand-drawn materials and digital drawing will be used throughout the semester. Students may use their choice of drawing software, based on their own experience and skill level. Students new to digital drawing will work in Storyboard Pro software or Procreate software if they own an iPad. All students will have access to the animation rooms—which include a variety of software options, including Storyboard Pro, Harmony, Photoshop, Illustrator, and editing software Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier. Assignments and projects will include character boards, model sheets, and animatics. There will be daily character drawing exercises, structural anatomy demonstrations, basic digital drawing concepts, and empirical perspective drawing discussions throughout the semester. This is a drawing course, which requires a commitment to learning to draw, and is labor-intensive. Good drawing demands time, commitment, and intelligence. The final conference project for this course is a concept-based, fully-developed character animatic. Knowledge from this course can be used to create and enhance animations; to establish a character outline for an interactive media project; or to help in developing a cast of characters for game design, graphic novels, or narrative film.

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2D Digital Animation: Short Narratives

Open, Seminar—Year

In this class, students will develop animation and storytelling skills by focusing on the process of creating animated short films. Participants will develop and refine their personal style through exercises in story design and assignments directed at translating ideas into moving images. Digitally-drawn images (with the option to include live action and photographs) will be assembled in sync to sound. Compositing exercises cover a wide range of motion-graphic features, including green screen, keyframing, timeline, effects, 2D space, layering, and lighting. Exercises in the fall will provide students with a working knowledge of the software Harmony by Toon Boon. The fall semester, taught by Robin Starbuck, includes instruction exercises in all of the production steps required to produce a short, animated film of one-to-three minutes. These include the basic principles of animation, color and visual design, story development, continuity, motion, timing, frame-by-frame digital drawing, and rotoscoping. The spring semester, taught by Scott Duce, will involve the hands-on production of a single, short, animated film or PSA by each student. The Toon Boom software will be used for the students’ animated film production in the spring. Harmony is a creative, efficient software used in the film and TV animation industry. No prior drawing experience is necessary.

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Storyboarding for Film and Animation

Open, Large seminar—Fall

This course focuses on the art of storyboard construction as the preproduction stage and previsualization for graphics, film/video, and animation. Students will be introduced to storyboard strategies, exploring visual concepts such as shot types, continuity, pacing, transitions, and sequencing into visual communication. Both classical and experimental techniques for creating storyboards will be covered. Emphasis will be placed on production of storyboard drawings, both by hand and digitally, to negotiate sequential image development and to establish shot-by-shot progression, staging, frame composition, editing, and continuity in film and other media. Instruction will concentrate primarily on drawing from thumbnail sketches through final presentation storyboards and animatics. The final project for this class will be the production by each student of a full presentation storyboard and a low-res animatic in a combined visual, audio, and text presentation format. Knowledge of storyboards and animatics from this class can be used for idea development and presentation of your project to collaborators, for pitching projects, to professional agencies, and—most importantly—for you, the maker. Storyboard Pro software will be used throughout this course.

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Radical Strategies: Experimental Documentary

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this course, we examine the experimental documentary form as political/social/personal discourse and practice. We take as a starting point avant-garde documentary production and explore this in the manner that theorist Renov defines as “the rigorous investigation of aesthetic forms, their composition and functionm,” and in which, “poetics confront the problematics of power...” Throughout the semester, students will produce a series of experimental film exercises while simultaneously researching and producing a single, short, experimental documentary film for conference work. This class acquaints students with the basic theory and purpose of experimental film/video, as compared to narrative documentary formats. Instruction will include critical methodologies that will help establish aesthetic designs for a student’s own work. In the class, we will survey a wide range of avant-garde documentary films from the 1920s to the present, with the central focus being student’s options for film production in the context of political and cultural significance. The various practices inherent in experimental documentary film speak to a range of possibilities for what a movie might be. Within these practices, issues such as whose voices are heard and who is represented become of crucial Importance.

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Writing Fantasy Scripts

Open, Seminar—Fall

This class will involve learning how to write the fantasy genre for film and TV, as well as learning the necessary components of a strong script for both short-form and feature scripts. The class will cover the essential elements of a well-written fantasy script. In addition, we’ll explore how to create scripts that mix genres and use fantasy elements, which many popular films and TV shows do. After learning about the format for short- and web-series scripts, students will have the option of pitching and developing ideas in either the genre or subgenre of fantasy. They will then learn how to further develop the plot, characters, theme, style, and tone of their scripts through discussion, exercises, and outlines. We will workshop the scripts with readings in class, which will be followed by notes given by myself and fellow students. Students will revise their scripts and finish the class with a completed and polished draft of their short- or web-series scripts. This class is designed to help both beginning and experienced screenwriters understand how to create strong fantasy elements in their scripts while finding his or her voice as a screenwriter. Having the fantasy genre and effective techniques of visual storytelling as the main focuses of this class will particularly support these goals and will also inspire students to delve into their imaginations to create distinctive and well-structured fantasy scripts or scripts where fantasy is a subgenre, such as comedy, drama, horror, etc.

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Readings in Intermediate Greek

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Qualified students will read selected passages of Homer and Herodotus in Greek. The class will meet twice each week.

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Beginning Italian: Viaggio in Italia

Open, Seminar—Year

This course, for students with no previous knowledge of Italian, aims at giving the student a complete foundation in the Italian language with particular attention to oral and written communication and all aspects of Italian culture. The course will be conducted in Italian after the first month and will involve the study of all basic structures of the language—phonological, grammatical, and syntactical—with practice in conversation, reading, composition, and translation. In addition to material covering basic Italian grammar, students will be exposed to fiction, poetry, songs, articles, recipe books, and films. Group conferences (held once a week) aim at enriching the students’ knowledge of Italian culture and developing their ability to communicate. This will be achieved by readings that deal with current events and topics relative to today’s Italian culture. Activities in pairs or groups, along with short written assignments, will be part of the group conference. In addition to class and group conferences, the course has a conversation component in regular workshops with the language assistant. Conversation classes are held twice a week (in small groups) and will center on the concept of viaggio in Italia: a journey through the regions of Italy through cuisine, cinema, art, opera, and dialects. The Italian program organizes trips to the Metropolitan Opera and relevant exhibits in New York City, as well as offering the possibility of experiencing Italian cuisine firsthand as a group. The course is for a full year, by the end of which students will attain a basic competence in all aspects of the language.

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Intermediate Italian: Modern Italian Culture and Literature

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This course aims at improving and perfecting the students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, as well as their knowledge of Italy’s contemporary culture and literature. In order to acquire the necessary knowledge of Italian grammar, idiomatic expressions, and vocabulary, a review of all grammar will be carried out throughout the year. As an introduction to modern Italian culture and literature, students will be introduced to a selection of short stories, poems, and passages from novels, as well as specific newspaper articles, music, and films in the original language. Some of the literary works will include selections from Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Natalia Ginzburg, Gianni Rodari, Marcello D’Orta, Clara Sereni, Dino Buzzati, Stefano Benni, Antonio Tabucchi, Alberto Moravia, Achille Campanile, and Elena Ferrante. In order to address the students’ writing skills, written compositions will be required as an integral part of the course. All material is accessible on MySLC. Conferences are held on a biweekly basis; topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, film, or any other aspect of Italian society and culture that might be of interest to the student. Conversation classes (in small groups) will be held twice a week with the language assistant, during which students will have the opportunity to reinforce what they have learned in class and hone their ability to communicate in Italian. When appropriate, students will be directed to specific internship opportunities in the New York City area, centered on Italian language and culture.

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Beginning Latin

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, with a view toward reading the language as soon as possible. Close reading of Vergil’s Aeneid in English will accompany intensive language study in the fall. By midsemester, students will be translating authentic excerpts of Latin poetry and prose. During the spring semester, while continuing to develop and refine their knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary, students will read selections from Vergil’s Aeneid in Latin.

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First-Year Studies: Reality Check: Homer, Herodotus, and the Invention of History

FYS—Year

Reality is currently under siege. Millions of people today believe, to their core, things that are demonstrably not true. Are we “each entitled to our own reality,” as some would argue? The ancient Greeks thought otherwise. Some 2,500 years ago, the Greeks began to distinguish muthos (origin of the English word “myth”)—an unverified, unverifiable story—from historiē (origin of the English word “history”), an inquiry into the facts for the purpose of making a rational assessment. Simultaneously, the Ancient Greeks began to reject tyranny and introduce democratic political ideals and institutions. Tyrants, however, require obedient subjects unwilling or unable to fact-check even their most preposterous lies. Today’s autocrats and would-be autocrats bombard us with fictions, even contradictory fictions, so as to eradicate the very concept of objective fact. As individuals, we are losing the ability to assess facts on their merits. We’re losing the ability to learn not only from history but even from our own experience. Succumbing to authoritative speakers, many of us prefer virtue-signaling to real-world problem solving. We’re abandoning verbal persuasion in favor of violence and intimidation. Can democratic ideals and institutions survive if we can no longer distinguish myth from history, fiction from fact? What is the value of evidence-based, logical reasoning? How can we learn from fiction without being deceived by it? Reading and discussing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (c. 8th cent. BCE) and Herodotus’s Histories (c. 440s, 430s BCE), we will examine these and other questions that are as vital to human survival and success today as they were centuries ago. This course is designed for students who welcome open-minded critical inquiry and are eager to read texts that are challenging both intellectually and emotionally. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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Reading High Romanticism: Blake to Keats

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

This lecture focuses on the interpretation and appreciation of the most influential lyric poems written in English in the tumultuous decades between the French Revolution and the Reform Act of 1832. Over the course of two generations, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats invented a new kind of autobiographical poem that largely internalized the myths that they had inherited from literary and religious traditions. The poet’s inward, subjective experience became the inescapable subject of the poem—a legacy that continues to this day. We will be exploring ways in which the English Romantic poets responded to the political impasse of their historical moment and created poems out of their arguments with themselves, as well as their arguments with one another. Our preeminent goal will be to understand each poem’s unique contribution to the language.

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Documentation and Transformation: Mapping Travel in Contemporary Literature

Open, Seminar—Year

Fernando Pessoa wrote, “Life is what we make of it. Travel is the traveler. What we see isn’t what we see but what we are.” This intriguing insight into the nature of travel offers the starting point for an exploration of a diverse selection of contemporary literature. We will also make our own forays into travel writing with weekly field notebook exercises and creative nonfiction essays about place, movement, journey. As a part of conference work, students will work in small groups on individual or collaborative projects. Major topics of the course include ethnography, tourism, psychogeography, postcolonial histories, translation, migration, exile, memory. Authors may include: Christa Wolf, Helene Cixous, Jamaica Kincaid, Michael Ondaatje, Amitav Ghosh, W. G. Sebald, Orhan Pamuk, Bhanu Kapil, Ocean Vuong, Cristina Rivera Garza, Yoko Tawaka, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Ayad Akhtar, Robert Macfarlane, and others.

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Eight American Poets

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year

American poetry has multiple origins and a vast array of modes and variations. In this course, we will focus our attention on the trajectories of eight American poets: Whitman, Dickinson, and Robert Frost in our first semester; Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Ashbery in our second semester. Some of the poems that we will read are accessible on a superficial level and present challenges to interpretation only on closer examination; other poems—most notably, those written by Dickinson, Stevens, Eliot, Crane, and Ashbery—present significant challenges at the most basic level of interpretation. The major prerequisite for this course is, therefore, a willingness to grapple with literary difficulty and with passages of poetry that are, at times, baffling or highly resistant to paraphrase. We will seek to paraphrase them anyway or account as best we can for the meanings that they create out of the meanings that they evade. Our central task will be to appreciate and articulate the unique strengths of each of the poems that we encounter through close, imaginative reading and informed speculation.

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Literature in Translation: 20th-Century Italian Literature and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

The course will explore 20th-century Italian literature, focusing on important intellectuals, works, and movements that helped shape it and their connection with the arts, cinema, and society at large. Italy had become a unified nation by 1860, and its literature addressed issues such as (national and personal) identity, tradition, innovation and modernity, the role of literature and of the writer, and the changing role of women in Italian society. We will explore the interrelation between Italian literature and crucial historical events—such as the Great War, the rise and fall of fascism, World War II, the Resistance, the birth of the Republic, the postwar economic boom, the students’ and women’s movements of the 1960s and ’70s, the terrorism of the “Anni di Piombo”—until the recent contribution of migration literature to the Italian literary canon. Among the authors and intellectuals, we will explore Sibilla Aleramo for her literary treatment of the issue of female emancipation at the beginning of the century; Luigi Pirandello and his work as a novelist and playwright; Gabriele D’Annunzio as a poet, playwright, and novelist but also a war hero and politician; F. T. Marinetti, whose futurist manifestos and literary works reflected his desire to renew Italian art, literature, and culture in general; B. Mussolini’s fascist regime, its dictates, and their influence on propaganda literature and cinema; Ignazio Silone’s novels on the fascist era; Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist cinema; Italo Calvino’s, Beppe Fenoglio’s, and Elio Vittorini’s literature of the Resistance; Primo Levi’s depiction of The Holocaust; and women writers such as Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, and Dacia Maraini. Readings will be supplemented by secondary source material that will help outline the social, historical, and political context in which these authors lived and wrote, as well as provide a relevant critical framework for the study of their works. On occasion, we will watch films that are relevant to the topics and period in question. No previous knowledge of Italian is required. Students proficient in Italian may opt to read sources in the original language and write their conference projects in Italian. Conference topics may include the study of a particular author, literary text, or topic relevant to the course and that might be of interest to the student.

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Romantic Legacies: Tennyson to T. S. Eliot

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course offers a survey of some of the most influential poets writing in English from the Victorian period to the early 20th century, when modernists like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound loudly proclaimed their break from Romanticism and its Victorian heirs. Our readings are bookended by two monuments to their cultural moments: Tennyson’s long elegy for Arthur Hallam, In Memoriam: A. H. H., which Queen Victoria kept on her bedside table next to her Bible, and Eliot’s The Waste Land, of which William Carlos Williams wrote: “It wiped out our world as if an atom bomb had been dropped upon it and our brave sallies into the unknown were turned to dust.” Eliot’s debt to Tennyson is clearer in retrospect than it was to Eliot’s contemporaries. Indeed, as the course title suggests, all the poets on our syllabus can be read, productively, as heirs of Romanticism whose attempts to break with Romantic tradition only extended and enlarged it. This course presumes some familiarity with the most influential British Romantic poets or a willingness to gain a familiarity with their work in conference. Poets to be studied include, among others: Tennyson, Whitman, R. Browning, C. Rossetti, Dickinson, Hardy, Yeats, and Eliot.

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Gothic Decay: The Literature and Science of Soils, Swamps, and Forests

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

Western literature and culture deeply influence how our country negatively perceives transitional spaces, such as the spaces between cultivated land and forest or between water and land. The need for control pushes us to reshape or eliminate marshes, swamps, thickets, and other forms of overgrowth. Similarly, we feel uncomfortable considering the soils in which we bury our dead—or we ignore them completely. Yet, a closer examination of the biology of decay reveals cycles of life that follow death, with growth, reproduction, and nutrient exchange accompanying decay at every turn. We will read excerpts of literary works that have shaped our cultural perception of decay and of these transitional states and spaces, including works by Sophocles, Mary Shelley, Alice Walker, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and others. We will also explore the ecosystems themselves through lab experiments and trips to local parks and field stations (Center for the Urban River at Beczak, Untermeyer Gardens). This joint course will evaluate the divide between culture and science and explore how cultural representations may evolve with an adequate framing of scientific research and findings. This course fully participates in the collaborative interludes in the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art

Open, Seminar—Fall

Art seems to be an inextricable part of human life. The question that guides this class is seemingly simple: What is art? As will soon become clear, answering this question proves to be exceedingly difficult; for example: Are trees works of art? Is an iPhone a work of art? Is a movie a work of art? Are all movies works of art? Is a doodle in your notebook a work of art? It may turn out that no definitive answer to our guiding question is possible; however, without demarcating between what counts as art and what doesn’t, art refers to everything and, consequently, to nothing special. This class investigates how works of art become meaningful. The narrative of the class traces the different frameworks used by philosophers over the last 2,500 years to pursue this question. We will follow a historical narrative, learning how these frameworks have responded both to each other and to the artworks of their time. We will read texts by Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Danto, Benjamin, and others, as well as analyze artworks from Sophocles, William Shakespeare, Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, John Cage, Kara Walker, Jordan Peele, and many others. At the end of the semester, our aim will be to articulate what is so special about art and why we care about it.

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Sociology of the Body, Disability, Illness, and Health

Open, Seminar—Year

In this yearlong seminar, we will examine bodies: how disability and illness shape life experience; the ways in which the body is surveilled by government and other institutions, including the medical profession; and the individual development of social identity. The course explores several themes, including the politics of reproduction, agency and labor, bodies in transition, stigmatization, and resisting bodies. Substantive topics include the experience of pregnancy, gender development in childhood, the development of sexual identity, the onset of severe mental illness, the isolating experience of physical decline, and the politics of death and dying. For their conference work, students are invited to select one bodily experience, disability, or illness to explore in depth. The first semester will be devoted to background reading and the development of a research question. This will lay the groundwork for second-semester data collection and analysis.

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Travel and Tourism: Economies of Pleasure, Profit, and Power

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This course takes a long view of travel, seeing it as a “contact zone”—a contradictory site of learning and exchange, as well as exploitation. Among the questions the course will address are the following: What are the reasons for travel historically and in the modern world? What factors draw individuals to travel singly and as members of collectivities? What sites draw the traveler and/or the tourist? What is the relationship between the visited site and the sight of the visitor? How is meaning produced in/through/of particular sites? How do these meanings differ, depending on the positionality of the traveler? What makes particular sites inviting? What is the relationship between the visitor and the local inhabitant? Can one be a traveler in one’s own home (site)? What is the relationship between travel and tourism, pleasure and power in/through travel? How are race, gender, and class articulated in/through travel? We will examine these questions through a multiplicity of sources—including but not limited to diaries, journals, and memoirs by travelers, as well as films and scholarly writings on travel and tourism. Throughout, the relation between material and physical bodies will remain a central focus of the course. Conference possibilities include analyses of your own travel experiences, examination of travel writings pertaining to specific places, theoretical perspectives on travel and/or tourism, or the political economy of travel. Fieldwork locally is yet another possibility for conference work.

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Advanced Intermediate Spanish: Political Creativity

Open, Seminar—Year

This course looks at ways that individuals and communities across the Spanish-speaking world have gotten creative about politics and political about creativity. Students will develop analytic skills and explore social-justice issues through literature, film, music, and visual art by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Sara Gómez, Samanta Schweblin, Yásnaya E. Aguilar Gil, Lia García La Novia Sirena, and many more. We will also study the politically creative actions of communities and organizations working outside the structures of the nation-state. An important aspect of this course will involve following activist movements in real time and working with social-justice initiatives in Yonkers and its surroundings. Students will produce both critical and creative written work. This discussion-based course will be conducted in Spanish and is intended for students who wish to further hone their communication and comprehension skills through advanced grammar review.

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Readings in Latin American Literature

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

This course is meant for students who have a solid command of Spanish and are capable of conducting language work at an advanced level. The main purpose of the class is to develop and consolidate a reading capacity that will allow the in-depth study of literary texts in the original language and from all over the Spanish-speaking world. An important segment of the seminar will be devoted to the examination of the most relevant works inscribed in the tradition of so-called “magical realism,” exploring its roots in Africa and the Indigenous cultures of Latin America. This includes fiction by Rosario Castellanos, María Luisa Bombal, Gabriel García Márquez, Cristina Peri Rossi, Alejo Carpentier, and Lydia Cabrera, among others. We will then proceed to examine the connections between the fantastic as a genre and the complexities of politics, both historically and in the most recent literary manifestations. In the course of study, we will also cover fundamental moments of the Latin American poetic tradition from its origins to the present day. Women writers will be one of the main areas of literary analysis, as their productions have resulted in a radical reversal of the canon—as is also the case with LBGTQ+ and Afro-Caribbean authors.

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First-Year Studies: Rigorous Action/Happy Accidents—A Laboratory for Theatre Artists

FYS—Year

This course is a hands-on testing ground for students who might have a wide range of interests in the theatre. Centered on collaborative methods for creation and performance, Rigorous Action/Happy Moments is geared toward enabling students to find their own artistic voice, creating their own solo and collaborative theatre works, while exploring various artists, influences, and approaches ranging from the New York avant-garde of the 1970s to artists working now. We will cover a wide array of multidisciplinary artists who create performance, investigating both their philosophies and their methodology. Class work will be a combination of readings/discussions and creative exercises where students try their ideas together in space. Additionally, an emphasis on the choreographic perspective will explore various methods, including: assembly, repetition, observation, deconstruction, and care of the moment-to-moment experience. Curiosity, bravery, and a willingness to make mistakes are all encouraged, as these are crucial attributes to any creative process. The course will culminate in a short solo theatre work conceived, created, and performed by each student. Rigorous Action/Happy Accidents meets once a week for two hours and will alternate individual conferences with small-group meetings/conferences to include screenings, field trips, and performances. Students will also enroll in two other theatre components of their choice to complete their Theatre Third. Students are required to attend scheduled Theatre Meetings and Think Tanks and complete a set amount of technical support hours with student productions in the theatre program.

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1,001 Drawings

Open, Seminar—Fall

This will be a highly rigorous drawing class that pushes young artists to develop a disciplined, sustainable, and experimental drawing practice with which to explore new ways of thinking, seeing, and making art. Each week, you will make between 50 and 100 small works on paper, based on varied, open-ended, unpredictable prompts. These prompts are meant to destabilize your practice and encourage you to interrogate the relationship between a work’s subject and its material process. You will learn to work quickly and flexibly, continually experimenting with mediums and processes as you probe the many possible solutions to problems posed by each prompt. As you create these daily drawings, you will simultaneously work on one large, ambitious drawing that you revisit over the entire semester. This piece will evolve slowly, change incrementally, and reflect the passage of time in vastly different ways from your daily works. This dynamic exchange will allow you to develop different rhythms in your creative practice, bridging the space between an idea’s generation and its final aesthetic on paper. The course will challenge you to ambitiously redefine drawing and, in doing so, will dramatically transform your artmaking practice.

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The Face Is a Clock: Drawing Portraits

Open, Seminar—Spring

Portraiture has a rich and complex history. Drawing a face is an ideally challenging way for students to learn how to render realistically through line, light, shadow, volume, and space. Intentionally manipulating this same graphic language can embed portraits with the complex emotional and psychological states that lie beyond visual representation. Politically, socially, and historically, portraits have been a means to establish class and gender, provide immortality, and document the human condition. In this course, you will learn the fundamentals of drawing through the subject of the portrait. The act of looking will be primary for us, as seeing the face accurately—as it truly exists—is a constant challenge for artists. As the semester progresses, we’ll move from observational portraits to interpreted, experimental drawings that challenge traditions and norms of portraiture. As you learn to draw what you see, you’ll simultaneously begin to reveal qualities not visible—those psychological, political, symbolic, and personal aspects of portraits that make them individual and unique. Students will work on daily drawing exercises both inside and outside the studio in order to build a disciplined drawing practice. For context, we will look at a range of historical and contemporary examples of portraiture and will visit New York City exhibitions to see artworks. A visiting artist working in portraiture will visit class, as well.

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Visual and Studio Arts Fundamentals: Materials and Play

Open, Seminar—Fall and Spring

This course serves as an introduction to the fundamental elements, processes, and techniques of the visual arts. It will center on prompts based in foundational areas across the visual arts: drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, sound art, collage, and related mixed-media processes. We’ll discuss these mediums through image presentations, videos, and gallery/museum visits. Students will then make art in those areas, experimenting with new materials, processes, and ideas. Materials will be provided, and you’ll be encouraged to discover through play. Emphasis will focus on developing your creative imagination and building visual literacy. This class culminates in an end-of-semester exhibition.

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