Bennington College :: NewPages Guide to Creative Writing Programs

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Bennington College

Bennington Graduate Writing Seminars

Contact Information:

1 College Drive

Bennington, VT 05201


Program director: Sven Birkerts

Program contact: Victoria Clausi or Dawn Dayton

Phone: (802) 440-4452


Program Information:

Degrees offered: MFA

Type of program: low-residency

Length of program: 2 years

Genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, dual-genre

Enrollment: 100

Total credits required: 64; 80 for dual-genre

Application deadlines: March 1 for June term; September 1 for January term

Scholarships: yes (see website)

Assistantships: no

Core faculty: Benjamin Anastas, April Bernard, Sven Birkerts, Susan Cheever, Martha Cooley, Bernard Cooper, David Daniel, David Gates, Nathalie Handal, Amy Hempel, Major Jackson, Bret Anthony Johnston, Dinah Lenney, Alice Mattison, Jill McCorkle, Askold Melnyczuk, Brian Morton, Rachel Pastan, Ed Ochester, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Peter Trachtenberg, Mark Wunderlich, Paul Yoon

Visiting faculty: Frank Bidart, Tom Bissell, Lucie Brock-Broido, Mark Doty, Elizabeth Cox, Mary Gaitskill, Lyndall Gordon, Donald Hall, Barrah Hannah, Jane Hirshfield, Barry Lopez, George Packer, Robert Pinsky, Bob Shacochis, Mac Wellman

Publishing/editing courses: no

Recent visiting writers: Geoff Dyer, Patricia Hampl, Paul Muldoon, Francine Prose, Jim Shepard, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Program description: The Bennington Graduate Writing Seminars Low-Residency program can be seen as the response of the literary sensibility to the realities of modern life. It is an alternative time calculation, realistically reflecting the seasons and rhythms of a writer's actual work habits. It offers considerable freedom to the student, but the student must be willing to practice a good deal of Emersonian self-reliance. At Bennington, freedom and responsibility exist on a continuum just as freedom and responsibility exist in a dynamic interdependence.

Read one hundred books. Write one.

Our motto is concise, but it expands in practice to embrace the whole culture of letters. It also embodies in its decisive cadence our sense of mission: to connect each student with much of the best that has been done, while keeping the focus trained on his or her own emerging work. Reading and writing make the bond between student and instructor, and also, significantly, with other students in all genres. The bonds proliferate and make a community, one that flourishes like the mythic Brigadoon during residencies, and then perpetuates itself other ways through the writing term—and beyond. There is nothing so rare, or fine, as a coming together of the most diverse individualities in the name of a common passion; there is nothing so exciting as watching the growth, change, and renewal of a community of engaged writers. If the boundary between reading and writing is seen to be porous, so, over time, is that between the writing and the life.