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FREE! A 35th Anniversary Reading
FREE! A 35th Anniversary Reading
A compilation of readings by Larry Levis, Agha Shahid Ali, Tom Andrews, Renate Wood, and Steve Orlen. Note: this reading is free with any purchase. Simply add it to your cart along with your additional purchase(s).
  MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
What prompts a poet to write fiction, or poets/fiction writers to undertake a memoir? Is the impulse toward “another genre” purely a formal choice, or is it made necessary by the material to be served? Are valuable lessons brought back to one’s “primary” genre? Or, will some of us spend our writing lives happily alternating among poems, novels, stories, essays, memoir and admixtures that defy taxonomy? Six faculty members report from own their experiences crossing the genre divide.
ALESHIRE, JOAN:  Out of Extremity: Emotion and Conscience (July 1989)
ALESHIRE, JOAN: Out of Extremity: Emotion and Conscience (July 1989)
Joan Aleshire considers how literature addressing extremes of human experience must establish a balance between the personal and the universal, the inner and the outer world. Looking at poems by Bishop, Kunitz, Lowell, Mandelstam, Olds and others, she warns against glorifying or overdramatizing the pain which is a fundamental part of life. At the same time, she argues, with Kafka, that the well-made work of literature wields the power of an ax “to break the frozen sea within us” and deliver us to ourselves.
ALI, AGHA SHAHID:  Defense of the Canon: A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males (January 1998)
ALI, AGHA SHAHID: Defense of the Canon: A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males (January 1998)
Agha Shahid Ali examines the difference between subject matter and form, asserting that “the more realized the form, the deeper the content.” He tests his principle in the context of the English Canon formed in India to serve the purposes of colonialism. Quoting the provocative claim that “One shelf of English literature is superior to all the art in the history of the world,” Ali offers an historical and political understanding of the standards set by English literature and the effect of these standards on writers today. Among the texts considered are Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue,” Wallace Stevens’ “Snow Man,” and essays by T.S. Eliot, Salman Rushdie, John Ashbery, V.S. Naipaul and others.
ALLBERY, DEBRA: Learning to Read (January 2013)
ALLBERY, DEBRA: Learning to Read (January 2013)
“One cannot read a book,” Nabokov wrote, “one can only reread it.” Delivered as the opening talk of the January 2013 residency, this meditation on rereading explores how our ongoing and evolving relationships with signal texts mirror the development and re-vision of individual and cultural aesthetics.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Baby I've Changed, I Swear: Creating Turning Points in Prose & Poetry (January 2012)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Baby I've Changed, I Swear: Creating Turning Points in Prose & Poetry (January 2012)
Fiction writer Dean Bakopoulos defines a “turning point” as an internal process in a speaker or character that affects the course of the poem or story, and sets into motion what will become the climax, resolution, conclusion, or epiphany. He identifies and considers the internal moments that are seeds of change, leaps towards epiphany, or transformations in stories and poems, including Richard Bausch’s “The Fireman’s Wife,” Junot Diaz’s “Nilda,” Mary Gaitskill’s “Tiny Smiling Daddy,” Reginald McKnight’s “The Kind of Lights That Shines on Texas,” Donald Hall’s “Affirmation,” Franz Wright’s “To Myself,” J. Allyn Rosser’s “As If,” and Richard Hugo’s, “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg.”
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Let Us Consider the Kitchen: The User's Guide to Lists, Maps, and Inventories (January 2014)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Let Us Consider the Kitchen: The User's Guide to Lists, Maps, and Inventories (January 2014)
Bakopoulos’s discussion class examines the uses of lists and litanies in poetry and prose as a way to heighten momentum and illuminate syntax. Among the texts discussed are William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow and works by Tillie Olsen, Susan Minot, and Stuart Dybek.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Postponement in Fiction (January 2010)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Postponement in Fiction (January 2010)
Shaped by Lorca’s concept of duende, Dean Bakopoulos’ lecture explores the effect that moments of stillness can have when they come against backdrops of intense action. Bakoupolos draws on fiction by John Cheever, James Joyce, and Jane Smiley, poetry by Richard Hugo and James Wright, and Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” to consider how these writers allow their characters, and their readers, to access the “deep song” in their lives.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Rainbows for All God's Children (& Other Horror Stories) (January 2013)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Rainbows for All God's Children (& Other Horror Stories) (January 2013)
A meditation on the challenges of narrative momentum in prose and poetry, this lecture attempts to use lessons from the horror genre and apply them to writing that is not always plot-driven. Among the stories discussed are Z.Z. Packer’s “Brownies,” Stuart Dybek’s “Paper Lanterns,” and “Dance in America” by Lorrie Moore.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: The Lyricism of Upheaval (January 2011)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: The Lyricism of Upheaval (January 2011)
Dean Bakopoulos challenges the workshop maxim that “less is more” and asks what happens when writers drop “the cloak of restraint” and move into the “realm of excess.” Fiction which seeks to enact emotional upheaval and intensity need not be melodramatic, he argues. Drawing on examples from fiction, poetry, and music, Bakopoulos looks at the strategies used in Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Barry Hannah’s “Love Too Long,” Aleksander Hemon’s Nowhere Man, and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, as well as Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago.”
BAROT, RICK: The Sea and the Zebra: Visual Effects in Poems (January 2011)
BAROT, RICK: The Sea and the Zebra: Visual Effects in Poems (January 2011)
Rick Barot explores the differences between description and image and examines the ways in which images in poetry are arranged, presented, or withheld. While description is often used to clarify, Barot points out that the most effective images rely on distortion. Through close readings of Philip Larkin’s “As Bad As a Mile,” Elaine Scarry’s “Dreaming by the Book”, Philip Larkin’s “As Bad as a Mile,” Robert Creeley’s “Something,” Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, Robert Frost’s “Out, Out—,” Laura Jensen’s “As the Window Darkens,” C.K. Williams’ “Droplets” and others, Barot demonstrates how poets can manipulate images to communicate more than what mere description can.
BAROT, RICK: The Voice In Question (January 2012)
BAROT, RICK: The Voice In Question (January 2012)
How does a writer craft a voice which is able to compel a reader’s belief as well as surprise her? Investigating works as diverse as Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” Thomas McGuane’s “War and Peace,” and Adrienne Rich’s “The Trees,” Barot demonstrates the ways in which tone, conveyed through a poem’s syntax, diction, and formal elements, is crucial to creating a truly individualized voice rather than one of mere caricature.
BAXTER, CHARLES: Dramatic Interventions: The Request Moment (July 2013)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Dramatic Interventions: The Request Moment (July 2013)
Dramatic situations are often set into motion when one character makes a request of another; poems, too, may acquire a certain energy from requests made within them. These requests tell us something about the social group in which they occur, and they tell us about the obligations one character may have for another. Examples are offered from Shakespeare, A. E. Housman, Shirley Jackson, Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and others.
BAXTER, CHARLES: Fugitive Subjectivity (July 2014)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Fugitive Subjectivity (July 2014)
What happens within a story when there may be no one to whom a story can be told, or the story itself is somehow unspeakable? Baxter explores “fugitive subjectivity”—subjectivity without an outlet—in the toxic narratives that result, focusing on John Cheever’s “The Country Husband.”
BAXTER, CHARLES: Narrative Urgency (July 2010)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Narrative Urgency (July 2010)
Narratives should be organized, Charles Baxter remarks in this lecture, “around the truth of the material and not the deployment of devices.” Yet urgency is crucial to good fiction. Drawing on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Paula Fox’s The Widow’s Children, Joan Silber’s The Size of the World, Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Pet Dog,” and Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, Baxter offers a variety of strategies writers can use to deepen suspense and tension in their work.
BAXTER, CHARLES: Regarding Happiness (July 2008)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Regarding Happiness (July 2008)
Why, Charles Baxter asks, is happiness such an intractable subject for treatment in extended dramatic forms, whether poetry or fiction? While reflecting on the difficulties in writing about happiness, Baxter offers several strategies writers can use to approach the subject; he turns to Czeslaw Milosz’s “Gift,” Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River,” and John Cheever’s “The Worm in the Apple” for examples.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: O'Connor and Bishop: Closely, at a Distance (July 2011)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: O'Connor and Bishop: Closely, at a Distance (July 2011)
Marianne Boruch examines tonal distance and imagistic precision in the work of two perhaps unlikely correspondents—Flannery O’Connor and Elizabeth Bishop. Drawing on O’Connor’s fiction, Bishop’s poetry, their visual art, and the letters they exchanged, Boruch explores the mutual influence and respect between the two writers.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Plath's Bees (July 1990)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Plath's Bees (July 1990)
Marianne Boruch traces the growth of Sylvia Plath’s bee sequence in Ariel from obsessive image to transcendent poetry. Using passages from early fiction as well as later letters and journal entries, Boruch shows us how Plath turned again and again to details of her actual experience of keeping a hive as she slowly developed her totemic image. Boruch argues that this lived experience of bee-keeping allowed Plath to ground her astonishing lyric sequence, “five poems written in one sleepless week,” in “the lucidity and vigor of narrative.”
BORUCH, MARIANNE: The Little Death of the Self (January 2010)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: The Little Death of the Self (January 2010)
Framed as a response to the contemporary impulse to “kill the ‘I’ in the poem,” Marianne Boruch’s lecture considers the possibilities of the lyric voice. What if, rather than narrowing the poem, the “I” opened it up to a wider perspective? Boruch looks at footage from the Hindenburg disaster and at poems by Perillo, Dickinson, Plath, Frost, Hopkins, and others to demonstrate ways in which the “I” can be both personal and more than personal.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Three Blakes (January 2013)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Three Blakes (January 2013)
To read Blake or to stare into his engravings and paintings is to be taken back to the source of what we do. Focusing on Songs of Innocence and Experience, Boruch’s lecture presents a triptych of Blakes, as she investigates his brilliant, quirky, often heroic way with image as artist and poet—as well as “the sound of it, song, in our time and his,” which she explores with the bravura accompaniment of William Bolcom’s settings of Blake’s work.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Complex Moments in Fiction (July 2010)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Complex Moments in Fiction (July 2010)
Most readers have had the experience of responding viscerally to a particular moment in a piece of fiction; in this lecture, Robert Boswell considers how such “complex moments” are made. Through close readings of work by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forster, William Faulkner, and Kazuo Ishiguro, Boswell suggests that narratives have horizontal and vertical planes, and that writers can manage the intersections between these planes to create moments of lasting resonance.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Having Gravity and Having Weight: On Meaning in Fiction (July 2013)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Having Gravity and Having Weight: On Meaning in Fiction (July 2013)
The lecture muses on meaning, focusing on rarely discussed aspects of craft. Texts referred to include Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and Sherwood Anderson's "Death in the Woods."
BOSWELL, ROBERT: On Characters and Characterization (January 2012)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: On Characters and Characterization (January 2012)
Looking at Joyce’s “The Dead,” Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Munro’s “Friend of my Youth,” and Welty’s “The Wide Net,” Boswell develops twelve possible useful stratagems for establishing complex and believable characters, including imagining a character’s approach to the inscrutable, describing the illusions to which a character clings, and exposing a character’s darkest and ugliest motivations.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: The Man in the Water: Sub-Aqua Commerce in Maximal Short Fiction (July 2011)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: The Man in the Water: Sub-Aqua Commerce in Maximal Short Fiction (July 2011)
Robert Boswell examines what he calls “big stories,” or short stories which manage in relatively few pages to convey the complexity and expansiveness of the larger world. How can a writer generate this sense of expansiveness? And what strategies can be used to make a “big story” cohere? Boswell explores these questions, focusing on examples from William Trevor and Alice Munro.
CALVOCORESSI, GABRIELLE: The Beams of Our House(s) Are Cedar(s): Erotic Specificity in the Song of Songs (July 2012)
CALVOCORESSI, GABRIELLE: The Beams of Our House(s) Are Cedar(s): Erotic Specificity in the Song of Songs (July 2012)
Gabrielle Calvocoressi leads a discussion on specificity in the Song of Songs, focusing on how use of detail creates narrative clarity and also deepens mystery. The class examines the language used to describe intense physical love and highlights the ways in which linguistic choices radically affect understanding of content.
CASEY, MAUD: States of Wonder (January 2012)
CASEY, MAUD: States of Wonder (January 2012)
“Wonder in art, as in life, is difficult to pin down and hard to talk about,” says Maud Casey. “It is a state of marveling in the face of something inexplicable, perplexing, bewildering, and yet utterly compelling.” Casey offers a meditation on this elusive state, exploring the tensions between the implausible and the credible in Deszo Kosztolanyi’s Skylark, Stephen Milhauser’s “In the Reign of Harad IV,” as well as in works by Werner Herzog and Isaac Babel.
CASEY, MAUD: The Art of Sensibility (July 2010)
CASEY, MAUD: The Art of Sensibility (July 2010)
In order to make a character compelling, the author must capture a specific human consciousness on the page. But how can writers make palpable that aspect of a person that often eludes description—his or her sensibility? Maud Casey offers three methods for depicting sensibility in fiction, looking to Barbara Comyns’ The Vet’s Daughter, Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark, and Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent as examples.
CASEY, MAUD: Watching the Clock (July 2009)
CASEY, MAUD: Watching the Clock (July 2009)
Fiction is not an expression of real time, Maud Casey notes, and yet it is very much occupied by time; novels and stories are shaped and organized, their revelations dramatized, by the illusion of time passing. Through close readings of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters, and Paul LaFarge’s Haussmann, Casey considers different ways fiction writers can depict chronological as well as what she calls “emotional time” and the complex relationship between past and present.
CASTELLANI, CHRISTOPHER: Objective Correlative (July 2012)
CASTELLANI, CHRISTOPHER: Objective Correlative (July 2012)
Christopher Castellani examines the usefulness of T.S. Eliot’s concept of the objective correlative for the fiction writer. Through a close reading of Peter Cameron’s novel Coral Glynn and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Castellani explores the power of the objective correlative to evoke strong emotion in the reader, as well as to seamlessly introduce back-story and necessary information into a narrative.
COHEN, ROBERT:
COHEN, ROBERT: "Refer Madness": Writing in an Age of Allusion (July 2012)
In this lecture, Robert Cohen considers the dilemma faced by contemporary fiction writers seeking to create work not reliant on allusion or reference. Using as a jumping-off point Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Wish to be a Red Indian,” Cohen discusses reference and allusion in Joyce’s Dubliners, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and William Gaddis’s The Recognitions. Cohen demonstrates how difficult it is for contemporary writers to avoid these stratagems, but argues that therein lies opportunity for new kinds of creativity.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Creation of Intimacy (July 2009)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Creation of Intimacy (July 2009)
Most of us know, Stacey D’Erasmo suggests, how to put characters in a room and get them to talk, fight, trouble and/or seduce one another— we know, that is, how to create an impression of intimacy through dialogue and action. But intimacy can be expressed by means of a variety of subtle textual strategies far more deeply implicating the reader in the characters’ emotional lives; D’Erasmo draws on fiction by D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth Bowen, William Maxwell, Virginia Woolf and Charles Baxter for examples.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Love Among the Ruins (July 2008)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Love Among the Ruins (July 2008)
Stacey D’Erasmo argues that the novel of sexual identity is no longer, on its own, compelling. Yet certain of the sexual identity novel’s tropes—the narratives of passing and of double lives, of desire stifled by circumstance and of discontinuous selves—remain compelling to contemporary writers. D’Erasmo looks at work by Michael Cunningham, Jeannette Winterson, Colm Toibin, Monique Truong and others to explore how the architecture of the sexual identity novel has been recycled and transformed.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: On the Unsayable (January 2011)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: On the Unsayable (January 2011)
What, Stacey D’Erasmo asks, is the meaning of “the unsayable” for a writer today? She argues that the heart of the question lies not in which topics may be taboo and why, but rather in subject matter which “we fear language will be inadequate” to portray. Looking closely at Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, D’Erasmo explores how these novelists use indirection to narrate stories about the horrors of slavery and nuclear apocalypse.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: A Sense of Space (January 2010)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: A Sense of Space (January 2010)
Stephen Dobyns conducts close readings of the first paragraph of Henry James’ The Middle Years and William Butler Yeats’ poem “Her Praise” to examine how both writers create a sense of spaciousness in a small amount of text. Drawing on Yeats’ biography and on information about his writing process, Dobyns shows how James and Yeats use a range of craft strategies to imply the larger world.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Baudelaire (January 2012)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Baudelaire (January 2012)
Stephen Dobyns provides an introduction to the life, poetic project, and influence of Charles Baudelaire, often called the first modern poet. Drawing on biographical material as well as some of the poet’s essays, Dobyns offers close readings of poems from The Flowers of Evil, tracing in them an inherent tension between passionate love and the spiritual life, as well as early and influential gestures of Symbolism.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Context and Causality (January 2009)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Context and Causality (January 2009)
Stephen Dobyns examines how we read poems that rely on outside context, such as Berryman’s “Dream Song 18, A Strut for Roethke” and W.B. Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan.” Our reading of Berryman’s poem, for example, is shaped by knowledge of Roethke’s death and of the elegiac tradition. Arguing that such knowledge can help us understand the writer’s intention, Dobyns proposes ways in which the poet can establish context for the reader, regardless of the poem’s subject.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Economy, Intensity, and Ferocity: Poems by R.S. Thomas (July 2011)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Economy, Intensity, and Ferocity: Poems by R.S. Thomas (July 2011)
Stephen Dobyns investigates Welsh poet R.S. Thomas’s uses of elements of form, in particular sonic qualities, to create tension, energy and emotion within his poems. Drawing on work from throughout Thomas’ career, Dobyns examines how his methods changed over a fifty-year period.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Linebreaks (July 2008)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Linebreaks (July 2008)
In this lecture, Stephen Dobyns considers the function of linebreaks in metered and non-metered poetry, focusing on how they can be used to convey nuance. Drawing on poems by Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Matthew Arnold, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, James Wright and Louise Glück, Dobyns explores a variety of types of line breaks and examines how they work, in the context of each particular poem, to create rhythm and meaning.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: On Structure (January 1990)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: On Structure (January 1990)
Offering close readings of Philip Larkin’s “The Explosion” and Lon Otto’s “A Very Short Story,” Stephen Dobyns argues that structure is both the means by which information is released and the information itself. He states that structure, whether in poetry or prose, represents the means by which formal elements (language, texture, pacing, and tone) may be imposed upon informal elements (action, emotion, setting and idea). In conclusion, Dobyns cautions that a work’s structure can only be determined when the writer has fully understood its purpose.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Poetic Closure (July 2009)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Poetic Closure (July 2009)
“Closure,” Stephen Dobyns remarks, “usually means putting something behind us.” But in a good poem, he argues, “it means something ahead.” Through close readings of poems by Billy Collins, Philip Larkin, Kay Ryan, W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic, Carol Ann Duffy and Miroslav Holub, Dobyns examines different types of poetic closure that, by suggesting other levels of meaning, can pull the reader back into the poem again.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Rimbaud (July 2012)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Rimbaud (July 2012)
Stephen Dobyns meditates on the nature and extent of Arthur Rimbaud’s influence on 20th century poetry. Examining Rimbaud’s biography, aesthetic theories, and poetry, Dobyns observes the genius and complexity of Rimbaud’s work and to this end offers a close reading of The Drunken Boat.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: The Poetic Development of James Wright (July 2013)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: The Poetic Development of James Wright (July 2013)
The lecture looks at the change in James Wright's poetry from the formal verse of The Green Wall and Saint Judas through the free verse poetry of The Branch Will Not Break, focusing on Wrights' early years in Martins Ferry, Ohio, through his time in the army, Kenyon College and his year in Vienna on a Fulbright where he discovered the poetry of Georg Trakl, which showed him a path his own poetry could take and led a few years later with his friendship with Robert Bly. Biographical information is drawn from letters and six interviews with Wright.
DOENGES, JUDY: We Are One: First Person Plural (July 2009)
DOENGES, JUDY: We Are One: First Person Plural (July 2009)
How does a literature focused almost exclusively on the life of the individual make room for the occasional work of fiction that uses a collective first-person narrator? How does using such a point of view impact the contract between writer and reader? In this lecture, Judy Doenges looks at Ayn Rand’s Anthem as a negative and Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End as a positive example of the possibilities and ramifications, both aesthetic and political, of writing fiction in the first-person plural.
DOERR, ANTHONY: Suspense (January 2010)
DOERR, ANTHONY: Suspense (January 2010)
What makes suspense compelling instead of melodramatic? Through close readings of work by Camus, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph Conrad, Cormac McCarthy, and Edgar Allen Poe, Anthony Doerr suggests that well-executed suspense functions at a number of levels, so that even as smaller moments of literal suspense are resolved, larger, figurative questions continue to grow.
FRIED, DAISY: All My Pretty Hates (January 2013)
FRIED, DAISY: All My Pretty Hates (January 2013)
Looking at work by Frederick Seidel, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Charles Bernstein, among others, Fried’s lecture focuses on the importance of paying attention to, and learning from, poetic aversion. What can our strong reactions tell us about who we are, what our prejudices are made of, and what are the failings and successes in our own work? Ultimately, Fried’s talk is about the limits of taste, the importance of prejudice, and learning to learn from what rubs us all wrong.
FRIED, DAISY: Why Burn: An Exhortation in Eight Proposals (July 2014)
FRIED, DAISY: Why Burn: An Exhortation in Eight Proposals (July 2014)
Jeers, rants, outbursts, abrasions, invective—Fried’s lecture investigates varieties and effects of “heat” in poems by Robert Bly, John Donne, Les Murray, and others, and in the fiction of Charles Dickens.
GAVRON, JEREMY: In Praise of Omission (July 2012)
GAVRON, JEREMY: In Praise of Omission (July 2012)
In this class, Jeremy Gavron considers the question of how much information to include in a work of fiction, looking at choices made by several contemporary writers. Gavron compares the richness of the opening pages of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections to the relative sparseness of Amoz Oz’s The Same Sea and Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room and pays particular attention to how each writer subtly varies his approach.
GAVRON, JEREMY: Whose Story is it Anyway? (July 2011)
GAVRON, JEREMY: Whose Story is it Anyway? (July 2011)
Jeremy Gavron considers the limitations and benefits of using a secondary character as a narrator in a work of fiction. Looking at Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes and Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, among other novels, Gavron suggests that a narrator’s lack of full access to the “hero” of a story can intensify our attention to the hero and lend the narration a quality of truth-telling.
GROFF, LAUREN: Horror Vacui: On Gaps, Spaces, and Silences (July 2014)
GROFF, LAUREN: Horror Vacui: On Gaps, Spaces, and Silences (July 2014)
The gaps in a text may be empty of words, but full of resonance, the vacuum filled instantly by the reader’s swift comprehension. Groff’s lecture questions and explores varieties of white space in a text—pauses, rests, caesurae, silences—in works by Perec, Levi, Duras, Beckett, and others.
GROSSMAN, JUDITH: Instead of a Muse: A Genealogy for Stories (January 2014)
GROSSMAN, JUDITH: Instead of a Muse: A Genealogy for Stories (January 2014)
Elements of the folktale persist throughout the transformations of the modern story. Grossman’s lecture investigates how the Hero/Heroine, the Enemy and the Ally, the Treasure, the loss of a parent or exile from home, and the factor of lucky work like traditional post-and-beam in narrative, looking at the Grimm Brothers’ “The Devil with Three Golden Hairs,” E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Sandman,” Samuel Beckett’s “First Love,” and stories by Alice Munro.
GROTZ, JENNIFER:
GROTZ, JENNIFER: "An Anxiety of Influence" for Girls (January 2009)
In his 1973 book The Anxiety of Influence, Harold Bloom posits that the young poet must assume poetic authority through willfully misreading, and then overthrowing, a precursor poet. In this lecture, Jennifer Grotz meditates on what in Bloom’s theory is helpful and what is harmful for a young writer; she draws on essays by Bloom and Eliot, and on poems by Plath, Graham, Moore, Milton, Bishop, Milosz, and Merwin, to offer a different understanding of what poetic authority is and how one might obtain it.
GROTZ, JENNIFER: On Poetry and Boxing (July 2012)
GROTZ, JENNIFER: On Poetry and Boxing (July 2012)
Jennifer Grotz investigates the centuries-old fascination of poets and fiction writers for the sport of boxing. Drawing from John Keats’s and Joyce Carol Oates’s writings on the “sweet science of boxing,“ Grotz suggests that understanding elements of the sport may illuminate concerns of the writer; both endeavors, she says, require the workings of the imagination, or Keats’s “Fancy”, in their preparation and execution.
HAXTON, BROOKS: Image and the Levels of Meaning (July 2012)
HAXTON, BROOKS: Image and the Levels of Meaning (July 2012)
Brooks Haxton considers the image as a vehicle of meaning as he traces the influence of early 20th century translations of Chinese and Japanese work on Western writers and readers. Haxton also draws upon the King James Bible and Imagist poets, including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and D.H. Lawrence, to explore potential allegorical, moral, and mystical aspects of an image’s meaning.
HAYNES, DAVID: Narration, Narrators, and Edward P. Jones (January 2012)
HAYNES, DAVID: Narration, Narrators, and Edward P. Jones (January 2012)
David Haynes draws from Frederick Reiken’s essay, “The Author-Narrator-Character Merge,” to focus discussion on the nature of narrative, and in particular, on Edward P. Jones’s innovative approach. Haynes outlines possible techniques for orienting a reader, including the management of narrative time, the release of information, summation and judgment, and the modulation of narrative distance. Close readings of Jones’s stories “Old Boys, Old Girls” and “A Rich Man” highlight issues of when and why an author might choose to draw attention to narration, as well as when an appropriate choice might be to render narrative techniques invisible.
HAYNES, DAVID: Novels from the Ground Up (July 2012)
HAYNES, DAVID: Novels from the Ground Up (July 2012)
In this class, David Haynes examines some of the formal aspects of the novel. Using Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson before Dying as a blueprint for long works of fiction, Haynes identifies what is needed to start a novel’s engine and what’s needed to maintain narrative momentum. Haynes gives special attention to the ways in which a novel’s opening establishes its terms and shape.
HAYNES, DAVID: Would You Like to See My Cat Mammy? Looking at Other People and their Stuff (January 2014)
HAYNES, DAVID: Would You Like to See My Cat Mammy? Looking at Other People and their Stuff (January 2014)
Are you a white person who is just dying to include people of color in your next novel? Comfortably middle class and just fascinated as all get out with those quirky folks down at the trailer park? Does this course description make you a little bit queasy? Then this is the class for you! Haynes’s discussion class looks at how shifting lenses of creator/narrator/reader/viewer shape the development of and interpretation of cultural material in creative works. Among the texts discussed are works by Allan Gurganus’s White People, Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” and David Foster Wallace’s “Ticket to the Fair.”
HOAGLAND, TONY: Disproportion: Excess in Poetry (January 1993)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Disproportion: Excess in Poetry (January 1993)
Tony Hoagland identifies and champions poetry which belongs neither to the camp of the well-made and conservative nor to the zany and subversive. He describes how this third type, often excessive and highly dramatic, may not know exactly “what it is,” but can praise and reflect the objective world while at the same time asserting the supremacy of the imagination. Looking at poems by Tess Gallagher, Horace, Susan Mitchell, Wallace Stevens and W.C. Williams, Hoagland argues that much can be gained from studying a poem which absolves its writer from the need “to perfect.”
HOAGLAND, TONY: Idiom, Our Funny Valentine (July 2010)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Idiom, Our Funny Valentine (July 2010)
Idiom, like vernacular and slang, can establish shared knowledge and thus intimacy with the reader. But when, Tony Hoagland asks, does the use of idiom “dumb things down”? Hoagland looks at examples from Yehuda Amichai, Ben Lerner, John Ashbery, and Heather McHugh to consider the benefits—and liabilities—of using idiom in poems.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Information, Layering, and the Composite Poem (July 2013)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Information, Layering, and the Composite Poem (July 2013)
Tony Hoagland describes the formal strategy of the "composite poem," a poem that alloys and amalgamates bits and bytes of the objective and the subjective worlds into a loose kind of composition. The composite poem is a speculative form that does not explain or over-mediate the connections between its parts -- it has a modernist heterogeneous kind of "dissheveledness" about the way it presents reality. Nonetheless, the composite poem must have a kind of internal rigorousness; it seeks to harmonically arrange its many tones and samplings, to organize it into a credible, believably disorganized yet persuasive form. Examples of the composite form are drawn from the work of Robert Hass, Spencer Reece, Anne Carson, and most especially Tomas Transtromer.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Structure: Housing and Transmission (July 2011)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Structure: Housing and Transmission (July 2011)
Comparing a poem to an automotive engine, Tony Hoagland argues that poems stay alive on the page by shifting gears; at such moments, Hoagland suggests, a poem can be enlarged or intensified within a single sentence. Through close readings of work by Jean Follain, Philip Larkin, Eavan Boland, Joseph Millar, and Anne Carson, Hoagland examines the organizational strategies that make such “gear-shifts” possible.
HORROCKS, CAITLIN: When Bad Stories Go Good (July 2013)
HORROCKS, CAITLIN: When Bad Stories Go Good (July 2013)
Caitlin Horrocks talks about stories that wear their “bad ideas” proudly, requiring clichés to be redeemed, craft commandments to be broken, challenging or bizarre subjects to be tackled. Readers recognize the possibility of disaster in these stories, and cheer when the author emerges unscathed. Stories by Todd James Pierce, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Suan Sontag, and “Chris Drangle are examined for techniques or approaches that help risky stories succeed.
HRIBAL, C.J.: Go Little Book: Obsession in General and the Novella in Particular (January 2014)
HRIBAL, C.J.: Go Little Book: Obsession in General and the Novella in Particular (January 2014)
As writers, we often worry about not repeating ourselves, yet many wonderful writers return repeatedly to the same essential material. Hribal’s lecture extols the virtues of obsession, and offers a paean to the novella, a narrative form which allows writers to embody their inner obsessive. Among those texts discussed are Andre Dubus’s “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” and Jane Smiley’s “Ordinary Love” and “The Age of Grief.”
HRIBAL, C.J.: Revelatory Information and the Art of Mystery (January 2010)
HRIBAL, C.J.: Revelatory Information and the Art of Mystery (January 2010)
C.J. Hribal considers the kind of mystery that can be produced when crucial narrative information is released early in the text. How can this strategy deepen suspense instead of resolving it? Hribal looks to music and fiction to explore this question, giving particular attention to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
JONES, RODNEY: Poetic Language and Credibility:  The Poem that Does Not Seem to be a Poem (January 2012)
JONES, RODNEY: Poetic Language and Credibility: The Poem that Does Not Seem to be a Poem (January 2012)
Arguing that the best poems seem “but a moment’s thought,” Jones investigates how poets establish credibility through both consciously wrought technique and natural evocation of character. Readers want to sense that the voice in a poem is that of a real human being in an ordinary life; Jones examines how poets as dissimilar as Frank Bidart, Robert Creeley, Louise Gluck, Charles Wright, and James Wright work to integrate character and artifice.
JORDAN, A. VAN: The Suspension of Disbelief (July 2012)
JORDAN, A. VAN: The Suspension of Disbelief (July 2012)
In this lecture, A. Van Jordan meditates on Coleridge’s notion of the “willing suspension of disbelief” as it applies to modern poetry, prose narrative, and film. Jordan discusses the concept of poetic faith and the implicit contract between poet and reader requiring that a poem move toward a satisfying ending. By means of close readings of Martha Collins’ Blue Front, Laura Kasischke’s “Stolen Shoes,” and Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, Jordan considers some successful conclusions.
LEADER, MARY: Sestinas & Other Chances (July 2012)
LEADER, MARY: Sestinas & Other Chances (July 2012)
Through an examination of the sestina, Mary Leader’s class investigates the relationship between form and content in poetry. Focusing on poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Frank Bidart, Ezra Pound, and others, Leader meditates on themes which the sestina is particularly well-suited to suggest or to render.
LEVIS, LARRY: On Elegy:  Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island”  (January 1994)
LEVIS, LARRY: On Elegy: Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island” (January 1994)
Through a close reading of Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island,” the late Larry Levis reflects on the challenge which the elegaic form presents to a writer. Levis believes the dual purpose of the elegy-- to remember and to inter the dead-- can involve a poet, ambivalent about forsaking the beloved to seek a new object of affection, in an ethical dilemma. Levis looks at the effect of this complexity on Heaney’s poem and concludes that what matters in poetry, as in life, is passion.
LIVESEY, MARGOT: Mrs. Turpin Reads the Stars: Creating Characters (January 2012)
LIVESEY, MARGOT: Mrs. Turpin Reads the Stars: Creating Characters (January 2012)
In this lecture, novelist Livesey investigates the theory and practice of creating a character alive enough “to walk off the page.” Surveying work by Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, and John Cheever, Livesey argues that though many memorable characters are by contemporary definition “flat,” they were not conceived of as such, but rather are “always capable of reaching after roundness,” and therefore can be used to subvert and enliven reader expectations. With additional readings from Richard Ford, John Metcalf, and Ivy Compton-Burnett, Livesey concludes her class with a discussion of the ways in which both imagination and technique contribute to successful characterization.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: James Joyce: An Odyssey of Style (January 2012)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: James Joyce: An Odyssey of Style (January 2012)
“All of writing is stylistic extravagance,” asserts poet James Longenbach, “no matter how simple it may initially appear.” In his introduction to Joyce’s Ulysses, Longenbach identifies Joyce’s shift from direct realism to “linguistic extravagance” over the course of eighteen episodes. Through close readings of key passages, Longenbach explores the novel’s stylistic nature, asking: What makes us who we are, the DNA passed on to us or the language that encases us? Does character determine style, as is suggested by the earlier episodes, or, as the later episodes indicate, does style determine character?
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Poetic Amplitude (January 2009)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Poetic Amplitude (January 2009)
How do great works of verbal art incorporate language that might seem, in another context, to violate any familiar prescription for what makes writing good? In this lecture, James Longenbach examines how writers can use moments of flat or enervated language to thrilling, amplifying effect; he looks, for examples, at three of Shakespeare’s plays and at poems by Bishop, Eliot, Moore, Ashbery, Bidart, and Glück.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Excess of Poetry (July 2010)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Excess of Poetry (July 2010)
James Longenbach argues that excess is crucial to art, even to art that does not seem obviously excessive. Drawing on Keats’ idea of “fine excess,” Longenbach shows how Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” Pound’s Canto 74, and Dickinson’s “The vastest earthly Day” embody the tension between limit and excess, and enact the wish to exceed their own restraints.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Sound of Shakespeare Thinking (January 2010)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Sound of Shakespeare Thinking (January 2010)
James Longenbach examines how writers have represented the process of meditative thinking, as opposed to “finished thought.” Tracing this kind of representation to Shakespeare, in whose plays the “sound” of characters thinking is used to great dramatic effect, Longenbach draws, too, on contemporary examples from Virginia Woolf and Louise Glück.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Tone Poems (July 2009)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Tone Poems (July 2009)
James Longenbach considers how poetic series that are not governed by narrative or syntactical cohesion can still make convincing wholes. Through close readings of Pound’s “Villanelle, the Psychological Hour,” Eliot’s The Wasteland, and Susan Howe’s “Silence Wager Stories,” he shows how each of these poems uses tone to guide the reader through its disparate and open-ended sections.
MANNING, MAURICE: Fat Man's Misery, or, The Mind of the Poem (January 2014)
MANNING, MAURICE: Fat Man's Misery, or, The Mind of the Poem (January 2014)
Centering on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as well as other works, this lecture examines how “gaps”— what is not explicitly stated in a poem or a story—can have a profound impact on the reader’s experience, allowing him or her room to wonder and wander off the page into the mind of the work.
MANNING, MAURICE: Lyricism, Landscape, and the Inner Voice (January 2010)
MANNING, MAURICE: Lyricism, Landscape, and the Inner Voice (January 2010)
In this lecture, Maurice Manning explores the relationship of place to the constitution of a poetic self; the individual imagination, he argues, comes from the larger creativity of the natural world. Manning looks at poems by Pope, Coleridge, Dylan Thomas and Robert Penn Warren to consider how these poets return to, and re-imagine, the places that produced them.
MANNING, MAURICE: Nature and the Possibility of a Moral Imagination (July 2014)
MANNING, MAURICE: Nature and the Possibility of a Moral Imagination (July 2014)
What does Nature have to teach us in 21st century, and how can Nature instruct human imagination? Can our deep intimacy with Nature make us better artists? Manning’s lecture seeks answers through a discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the work of and the correspondence between Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.
MANNING, MAURICE: Place and the Composition of Poetic Self (January 2011)
MANNING, MAURICE: Place and the Composition of Poetic Self (January 2011)
In this lecture Manning examines the generative role a specific geography plays in composing a sense of poetic self. Through a study of the ways in which Coleridge’s “Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement," Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill," and Robert Penn Warren's "The Ballad of Billie Potts” render place on the page, Manning explores how these poets use tone, syntax, and form to simultaneously render self.
MANNING, MAURICE: The Uses of Nostalgia (January 2012)
MANNING, MAURICE: The Uses of Nostalgia (January 2012)
Poet Maurice Manning questions whether the idea of nostalgia might offer a powerful perspective, rather than an aesthetic shortcoming. Wordsworth’s “Prelude” suggests that nostalgic moments are not “sentimental” but are a means of recognizing the wellspring of a speaker’s poetic vision. Using Emerson’s essay “Nature” as a guide, Manning considers the idea of nostalgia in Frost’s “Going for Water,” and Vachel Lindsay’s “Nancy Hanks, Mother of Abraham Lincoln.”
MAZUR, GRACE DANE: Forbidden Looking (July 2008)
MAZUR, GRACE DANE: Forbidden Looking (July 2008)
What is looking, Grace Dane Mazur asks, that it should be so enticing, so fatal, and so forbidden? How is looking different from seeing? What kind of insight is gained from forbidden looking, and is it worth the consequences? Mazur considers these questions through the lens of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and reflects on the differences in how Rubens, Virgil, and Ovid represent Orpheus’ famous look back.
McHUGH, HEATHER: Composition as Conversation (July 2013)
McHUGH, HEATHER: Composition as Conversation (July 2013)
Heather McHugh does some etymological turns on the turns of verse—coming out in conversation with company and solitude, the controversial and the universal, the convertible and the converse. As always, her eye is on ambiguous and polyguous constructions of poetry; this time she reads poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Alan Dugan, Frederick Seidel, Shirley Kaufman, and others.
McHUGH, HEATHER: Mirrors and Misgivings (July 2000)
McHUGH, HEATHER: Mirrors and Misgivings (July 2000)
In this lecture, Heather McHugh reconsiders the idea that a work of art mirrors the world. Through close readings of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Insomnia,” Louise Bogan’s “Man Alone,” Robert Graves’ “The Face in the Mirror,” Gustaf Sobin’s “Out of the Identity,” and W.B. Yeats’ “The Cat and the Moon,” McHugh examines how poems create multiple readings and “break out of the mirror’s stronghold.” The best work of any artist, argues McHugh, is that of “discovery and not recapitulation, motivated by curiosity, not foreknowledge.”
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Garden Path: Poems by Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P'o (July 2011)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Garden Path: Poems by Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P'o (July 2011)
In this lecture, Heather McHugh examines the work of two largely unknown poets, Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P’o. McHugh conducts close readings of a range of poems by both writers and considers the ghost meanings, or multiple meanings, of the words in the poems; she suggests that this multiplicity allows the poems to work like “garden paths,” taking readers in unexpected directions.
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Stuff of Language as Packed by Wallace Stevens (July 2009)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Stuff of Language as Packed by Wallace Stevens (July 2009)
Heather McHugh reflects on the metaphor of a poem as a container, and on the ways such a vehicle can convey something larger than itself. Drawing on prose by Wittgenstein and on poems by William Dickey and Rilke, McHugh devotes the majority of her lecture to Wallace Stevens; she explores how poems such as “Poetry is a Destructive Force,” “Jumbo,” “Imago,” and “The Immense Dew of Florida” are designed to be exceeded by what they contain.
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Unwary Angel: Inquiry and Empathy (July 2014)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Unwary Angel: Inquiry and Empathy (July 2014)
“The role of art,” says faculty member Heather McHugh, “is to remind a mind that thinks it has made itself up.” Mc Hugh’s lecture takes on inquiry and empathy—and inquiry as empathy--through discussions of the poetry of Miroslav Holub, the writings of physicist Richard Feynman, and others. The two video clips referenced in this talk may be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37MNE8tOBG4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XGds2GAvGQ.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Focalization (January 2013)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Focalization (January 2013)
The tensions of looking and being looked at are essential in all narrative. What asks to be focused upon? What resists focalization? At what moment does something come into focus, and at what critical moment does something elude focus? For some writers, a significant breakthrough occurs when they move past their first assumptions about “looking” behaviors. McIlvoy’s lecture concentrates primarily on Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), specifically to the editions that include the “Dunnett Landing” stories.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Opportunities for Imminence (January 2009)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Opportunities for Imminence (January 2009)
If imminence is the state in which events are about to occur, isn’t it the fiction writer’s job to fulfill that “about-to,” and make things happen? In this lecture, Kevin McIlvoy suggests otherwise. Through close readings of Grimm’s fairytales, James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Sherwood Anderson’s “Death in the Woods,” and Agha Shahid Ali’s “The Last Saffron,” McIlvoy explores the power and possibility that can be produced when writers dwell longer in “about-to-happen” conditions.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Reflections on the Sentence and Poetic Line (January 2011)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Reflections on the Sentence and Poetic Line (January 2011)
Kevin McIlvoy considers differences and similarities between the prose sentence and the poetic line. If a sentence functions as “a train to a destination,” he argues that the poetic line is often a kind of “pedestrian” whose guidance of the reader “invites discovery, not destination.” McIlvoy goes on to consider writing that creates points of intersections between the sentence and the line, drawing on poetry by Denise Levertov, Thom Gunn, and Jean Valentine; fiction by Angela Carter, Jim Crace, and Herta Müller; and critical studies including The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt and The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach.
McILVOY, KEVIN: The Equilibrist and The Dynamist (January 2014)
McILVOY, KEVIN: The Equilibrist and The Dynamist (January 2014)
This lecture presents ways in which writers can present the elements of their work that move it toward "dynamic balance" (verging on achieving balance and falling out of balance in the very same moment), while not moving it away from equilibrium. Through close consideration of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and C.D. Wright's Deepstep Come Shining, the lecture addresses concepts of "the wolf tone," "surroundability and directionality," and the "altered instruments" of poetic syntax and story structure.
McILVOY, KEVIN: The One Reader (January 2012)
McILVOY, KEVIN: The One Reader (January 2012)
Kevin McIlvoy examines the influence an imagined reader, receptive or resistant, can exert on a writer. He selects prose poems by Russell Edson, Matthea Harvey, Francis Ponge, William Stafford, and James Tate as works which, he suggests, are both mistakes and “the perfection of mistakes.” McIlvoy encourages writers to think about what might be possible were they to imagine their “one reader” as positive and receptive, able to appreciate such work, rather than resistant.
NEVILLE, SUSAN: The Paragraph (July 2011)
NEVILLE, SUSAN: The Paragraph (July 2011)
Susan Neville suggests that paragraphing, like prosody, is a musical device. Through close readings of work by Andre Dubus, George Saunders, Sylvia Plath and Marilynne Robinson, she explores how writers can use different kinds of paragraphs to generate feeling and tone, and convey information about their characters.
OHLIN, ALIX: Misfits and Malfeasance: The Criminal Act in Fiction (July 2012)
OHLIN, ALIX: Misfits and Malfeasance: The Criminal Act in Fiction (July 2012)
In this class, Alix Ohlin considers stylistic approaches to the portrayal of criminal acts in fiction. Looking at works by Raymond Chandler, Carson McCullers, and Alice Munro, Ohlin explores how charged moments of criminality can shift tone and texture. Ohlin argues that acts of violence and betrayal, often rendered lyrically, are integral not only to plot development, but also to successful, nuanced characterization.
OHLIN, ALIX: The Afterimage (July 2011)
OHLIN, ALIX: The Afterimage (July 2011)
Alix Ohlin explores how the idea of the afterimage, or that which lingers in our sight after a vivid visual sensation, might be applied to fiction. Through close readings of “Killings” by Andre Dubus, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and “Wants” by Grace Paley, Ohlin shows how a writer can call up an image which reminds us of what came before, thus creating both echoes of the past and surprising visions of the future.
ORNER, PETER: Reading is Experience (July 2013)
ORNER, PETER: Reading is Experience (July 2013)
Peter Orner examines the work of the masterful, and vastly under-appreciated, English novelist, Henry Green. By zeroing in on two of Green's most famous and innovative novels, Loving and Party Going, Orner discusses technical and emotional aspects of Green's unusual and unique style, and emphasizes that the key to Green's work is his uncanny ability to see and listen to his characters. As Eudora Welty wrote in 1970, "The intelligence, the blazing gifts of imagery, dialogue, construction, and form, the power to feel both what can and what can never be said, give Henry Green's work an intensity greater...than any writer of imaginative fiction today."
PARKER, MICHAEL: All Hail the Semi-Colon (January 2011)
PARKER, MICHAEL: All Hail the Semi-Colon (January 2011)
Michael Parker explores the particular value of a semi-colon both as a form of punctuation and in terms of the broader lessons it can teach about writing. Parker argues that the semi-colon embodies ambivalence, since it is more “penetrating than a comma” and “less blunt than a period.” He shows how use of the semi-colon significantly contributes to the development of character and meaning in such short-shorts as Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and John Cheever’s “Reunion,” as well as in Lydia Davis’ translation of Madame Bovary.
PARSONS, ALEXANDER: Lasting First Impressions: The Novel Opening (July 2011)
PARSONS, ALEXANDER: Lasting First Impressions: The Novel Opening (July 2011)
Alexander Parsons suggests that an effective novel opening can guide the writer in both subtle and direct ways, even in its early stages of composition. Drawing on examples from Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Chandler and Haruki Murakami, Parsons argues that in drafting and redrafting this section of a novel the writer engages with structure, controlling metaphor, motif, and tone—narrative elements which can help define the book as a whole.
ROMM, ROBIN: Great Neurotics (January 2014)
ROMM, ROBIN: Great Neurotics (January 2014)
What makes a neurotic narrator so compelling, so full of life for so many writers (and readers)? Romm’s lecture explains the craft implications of hyper-vigilance, obsessiveness, and overthinking, and explores how these qualities make for excellent prose in works such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding, and others.
ROMM, ROBIN: The Unsparing Gaze (January 2013)
ROMM, ROBIN: The Unsparing Gaze (January 2013)
Romm’s lecture discusses two authors who use “the unsparing gaze” toward very different ends. Edward St. Aubyn’s tragic and autobiographical “Patrick Melrose Novels” explore how childhood incest wreaks havoc on a psyche. Alison Lurie’s comic social satire “The War Between the Tates” skewers gender roles and marriage. Both authors, Romm observes, “make the most of discomfort, an excellent aim for any artist.”
SCHWARTZ, STEVEN: Mythic Characters (July 2009)
SCHWARTZ, STEVEN: Mythic Characters (July 2009)
Some of the most memorable and famous characters in literature—Kurtz, Gatsby, Bartleby, The Misfit—are often the most psychologically inaccessible, viewed only from the outside, opaque surfaces onto which other characters’ projections can be mapped. In this lecture, Steven Schwartz looks at fiction by Joseph Conrad, Flannery O’Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Millhauser, Katherine Anne Porter and J.D. Salinger to investigate how such mythic characters are made.
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Convention and Mysticism: Dickinson, Hardy, and Williams (January 2012)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Convention and Mysticism: Dickinson, Hardy, and Williams (January 2012)
“How do we recognize individual talent if not against the backdrop of convention?” asks poet, novelist, and memoirist Alan Shapiro. Using T. S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” as a framework for his discussion, Shapiro considers the work of leading modernists who were deeply engaged with literary tradition and their individual talents. Among the works examined: Emily Dickinson, Poem 591; Thomas Hardy, “The Oxen”; and William Carlos Williams, “Portrait of a Lady.”
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Technique of Empathy: Free Indirect Style (January 2011)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Technique of Empathy: Free Indirect Style (January 2011)
Alan Shapiro characterizes Free Indirect Style as one which enables writers to move between intimacy and distance in narration. Drawing on close readings of “The Mill” by E.A. Robinson, “Donahue’s Sister” and “Slow Waker” by Thom Gunn, and “A Fantasy” by Louise Glück, he looks at how that these poems intertwine the narrative voice with contrasting perspectives of characters within the poem. Shapiro concludes that Free Indirect Style urges us “to consider being someone else” while at the same time suggesting the limitations of empathic understanding.
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Translation as Linguistic Hospitality (July 2009)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Translation as Linguistic Hospitality (July 2009)
“If failure and betrayal are inevitable” in translation, Alan Shapiro asks, “how do we fail and betray in interesting and illuminating ways?” Shapiro draws on his own experiences translating The Oresteia, as well as on translations of that work by Robert Browning and Robert Fagles, to explore the challenges facing any translator and to advocate the idea of hospitality as a productive way to think about translation.
SMITH, DOMINIC: The Mystery of Personality: Paradox, Consistency, and the Limits of Psychology in Creating Compelling Fictional Characters (January 2013)
SMITH, DOMINIC: The Mystery of Personality: Paradox, Consistency, and the Limits of Psychology in Creating Compelling Fictional Characters (January 2013)
When Flannery O’Connor said, “A story always involves, in a dramatic way, the mystery of personality,” she highlighted a key tension for the literary fiction writer—how to create characters who are both consistent and paradoxical. While the psychologist might be interested in understanding and categorizing the tangled web of personality, the fiction writer is primarily interested in revealing it. And as O’Connor reminds us, that revelation must happen in a dramatic way. Smith’s lecture explores our cultural understanding of personality, how it impedes and/or aids our explorations on the page, and some practical ways we might harness personality as an inherently dramatic “vehicle.”
SMITH, DOMINIC: Varieties of Movement: Plot and Beyond in Fiction (January 2009)
SMITH, DOMINIC: Varieties of Movement: Plot and Beyond in Fiction (January 2009)
What keeps us turning the pages of prose pieces by W.G. Sebald or Gertrude Stein, works known for their lack of “event”? In this lecture, Dominic Smith challenges and expands conventional ideas about how fiction can move. Drawing on Aristotle’s Poetics, Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and David Markson’s The Last Novel, Smith considers a variety of types of plot, as well as other devices that can generate momentum at a more molecular level.
SPARK, DEBRA: Raiding the Larder: Research in Fact-Based Fiction (July 2013)
SPARK, DEBRA: Raiding the Larder: Research in Fact-Based Fiction (July 2013)
Combining her own interviews with Charles Baxter, David Bezmozgia, Lily King, and Jim Shepard with online and print interviews with Kate Atkinson, Colum McCann and William Maxwell, Debra Spark discusses how contemporary writers use research to inspire, authenticate and correct their narratives. While always emphasizing that research is a means to a fictive end, not a goal in itself, she explores the artistic and personal pleasures of going to the library, interviewing, traveling, and even Googling obsessively.
SPARK, DEBRA: Surprise Me (July 2014)
SPARK, DEBRA: Surprise Me (July 2014)
How do we think of surprise in fiction? As an antidote to boredom, a gift of the subconscious, or welcome strangeness? Spark’s lecture considers how even the quotidian can shock us through plot twists, formal invention, character revelation, or language that distills the nature of the real.
SPARK, DEBRA: That's Funny (July 2012)
SPARK, DEBRA: That's Funny (July 2012)
In this lecture, Debra Spark questions how humor functions in contemporary fiction. Comparing the novels Personal Days by Ed Parks and Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, Spark looks at the comedic qualities of each and identifies the means by which the virtues of gratitude and humility are conveyed to readers. Spark’s discussion also makes mention of fictional moments by Etgar Keret, Shalom Auslander, and Maggie Shipstead which lead to important considerations of characterization, precise observation, truth-telling, and emotional power.
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Breaking Out: Narrative Shifts (January 2012)
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Breaking Out: Narrative Shifts (January 2012)
Megan Staffel examines how the “break-out scene,” which changes the tonal register and trajectory of a piece of fiction, deepens characterization and narrative drive. Looking at “The Dead,” she show how Joyce uses scenes of stillness to suspend characters in a kind of tension which pressures them to change both understanding and behavior, and allows him to boldly change the direction of his story. Staffel also explores the crafting and effects of break-out scenes in Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire which, while resulting in profound changes in the characters, never feel staged or arbitrary—rather, Staffel says, each is accomplished “in a manner that’s so concise and natural, it has the ambiguity of raw experience.”
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Now You See It, Now You Don't: A Glimpse into the Locked Box (January 2014)
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Now You See It, Now You Don't: A Glimpse into the Locked Box (January 2014)
This two-hour discussion class led by Megan Staffel explores what is gained when the writer shows the protagonist having a sublime experience in the early pages of a novel. Not only does it allow the reader insight into the character’s secret ambition, but it establishes the reader’s sympathy with the character’s often risky or impossible purpose: to return to the sublime that was so fleetingly achieved.
STONE, SARAH: Strategic Opacity (July 2014)
STONE, SARAH: Strategic Opacity (July 2014)
An imaginative work needs to embody, rather than explain, its world and its people. Stephen Greenblatt uses the term “Strategic Opacity” in discussing Shakespeare’s approach to character motivation. Stone adopts this idea as her jumping-off point to explore character and plot mysteries in Jamaica Kinkaid’s At the Bottom of the River, Joy Williams’ The Quick and the Dead, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
STONE, SARAH: The Pleasures of Hell (July 2012)
STONE, SARAH: The Pleasures of Hell (July 2012)
Sarah Stone explores aesthetic choices that make depictions of “hell” in literature pleasurable. Referring to Dante’s Inferno, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, and Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black, Stone demonstrates ways in which writers entice readers to enjoy morally disturbing and painful matters.
SZYBIST, MARY: Poetic Argument: Strategic Concessions (July 2011)
SZYBIST, MARY: Poetic Argument: Strategic Concessions (July 2011)
Mary Szybist considers one common rhetorical tool poets use to construct their arguments: the concession. To concede something in a poem is a move toward vulnerability, and it is a risk, Szybist argues, which can have enormous pay-off. Incorporating examples from Marianne Moore, Linda Gregg, David Lehman, Harryette Mullen, Sappho, and Shakespeare, Szybist examines ways in which poets have successfully used concessions to reach, persuade, and move their readers.
SZYBIST, MARY: There Interposed a ____: A Few Considerations of Poetic Drama (July 2013)
SZYBIST, MARY: There Interposed a ____: A Few Considerations of Poetic Drama (July 2013)
This talk considers the ways that very different poems set up one basic dramatic occasion: a moment when something comes between the speaker and his or her destination or desire. As we track this geometry, we will take note of its remarkable flexibility in poems by Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, William Stafford, Langston Hughes, William Wordsworth, and the medieval Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym
TOBIN, DAN: John Donne at the Odeon (July 2014)
TOBIN, DAN: John Donne at the Odeon (July 2014)
Associative, architectural, sexy, saintly, and immoderately wrought, John Donne’s poetry epitomizes the need to embody conflicting temperaments in the astonishing vital contraption that would be a poem. Tobin’s lecture focuses on how Donne’s creative action shapes two of his great poems, “The Canonization” and “Holy Sonnet 14.”
TURCHI, PETER:
TURCHI, PETER: "If it makes you happy, why the hell are you so sad?" (July 2008)
In this lecture about tonal and emotional range, the combination of darkness and light, Peter Turchi reflects on the powerful effect that mixed emotions can have in music and in fiction. Turchi examines the ways in which Joe Turner’s song “Honey Hush” and fiction by James Thurber, Anton Chekhov, Cormac McCarthy, and Vladimir Nabokov layer contrasting emotions on top of one another; he shows how this layering can disrupt the reader’s assumptions and give the work lasting resonance.
TURCHI, PETER: All Around the World, or the Myth of Linearity (July 2011)
TURCHI, PETER: All Around the World, or the Myth of Linearity (July 2011)
Peter Turchi draws on a range of writing, including non-fiction by Tim Ingold and Kandinsky, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and short stories by Italo Calvino, Andre Dubus and Alice Munro, to challenge the idea that our reading experience should follow a clear line from one fixed point to another. Instead, Turchi suggests, the reader can be encouraged to dwell in the story’s labyrinth, and even find that dwelling pleasurable.
TURCHI, PETER: Archimedes' Problem, and Three Solutions (January 2009)
TURCHI, PETER: Archimedes' Problem, and Three Solutions (January 2009)
“Give me a place to stand and a lever,” Peter Turchi quotes Archimedes as claiming, “and I will move the Earth.” In this lecture, Turchi looks at John Updike’s Rabbit is Rich, E.L. Doctorow’s The March, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude to consider how writers can make “levers” to propel their narratives forward. Turchi pays particular attention to the openings of these novels, suggesting that writers can use beginnings to establish the rules and themes of what is to come.
TURCHI, PETER: Power Play (July 2013)
TURCHI, PETER: Power Play (July 2013)
Peter Turchi discusses different forms of power in fiction, and the possibilities made available when power shifts among three or more characters. His examples include Alice Munro's "Royal Beatings," Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and Katherine Anne Porter’s “Noon Wine.”
TURCHI, PETER: The Pleasures of Difficulty (July 2010)
TURCHI, PETER: The Pleasures of Difficulty (July 2010)
Peter Turchi explores how writing that is challenging engages the reader, offering greater fulfillment and pleasure than easy writing would. Turchi draws on fiction by Antonya Nelson, Charles D’Ambrosio, Michael Ondaatje, and Thomas Bernhard, as well as Mahler’s 5th Symphony and theories about successful video games, to consider how writers can effectively incorporate mystery and difficulty into their work.
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Double Double (July 2009)
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Double Double (July 2009)
Ellen Bryant Voigt, expanding on her January 2009 class, examines what she calls “empirical irony,” “paradoxical doubling” based on factual evidence. Through close readings of poems by Robert Frost and Louise Glück, she considers how irony can enable writers to say two things at the same time, “apparently contradictory, both true.” Voigt makes crucial the distinction between ironic style, which seeks to conceal deep feeling, and irony, which discloses it, and whose subtext is “less bitterness than heartbreak.”
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Revision, Inspiration, and the Draft Process:  Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” (January 1996)
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Revision, Inspiration, and the Draft Process: Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” (January 1996)
Ellen Bryant Voigt’s lecture on revision challenges the familiar notion of how a poem comes to be: first inspiration, then “work.” Instead, Voigt suggests that “the product of work itself” can provide stimulus and instruction. Concentrating on Elizabeth Bishop’s six-month drafting process of “One Art” during which early repetitions gradually evolved into her masterful villanelle, Voigt demonstrates that “Vision may be the fruit of technique, not only its precursor.”
VOISINE, CONNIE: What is big as an elephant but weighs nothing at all?* or The Riddle in the Lyric Poem (January 2013)
VOISINE, CONNIE: What is big as an elephant but weighs nothing at all?* or The Riddle in the Lyric Poem (January 2013)
Northrup Frye calls the riddle “essentially a charm in reverse . . . the revolt of the intelligence against the hypnotic power of commanding words.” This struggle, between mystery and sense, is explored in Voisine’s lecture, using the riddle poem as a launching point. In considering how we respond to a good riddle—the epiphanic moment, the flash of comprehension, the way we are moved beyond the immediate, physical world—Voisine explores the ways in which lyric poems are riddles of a sort. *The shadow of the elephant.
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: How the Line Means in Free Verse (July 2012)
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: How the Line Means in Free Verse (July 2012)
Focusing on the line as a unit of sound and a rhythmic shape as well as a communicator of content, AlanWilliamson considers two traditions that make particularly radical breaks with the English pentameter line: the long line of Whitman, Jeffers, and Ginsberg and the short line of William Carols Williams.
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: Iambic Pentameter (July 1998)
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: Iambic Pentameter (July 1998)
Exploring the blank verse of MacBeth and the sprung rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” Alan Williamson investigates the relationship between energetic speech, musical feeling, and iambic pentameter. Williams discusses how Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean blank verse drama The Changeling influenced T.S. Eliot’s “Gerontion,” and goes on to consider how the ghost of iambic pentameter can invite the ear to seek musical patterns which create clarity.
WILNER, ELEANOR: Getting Out of the Way, or How Not to Stand in Your Own Light (January 2013)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Getting Out of the Way, or How Not to Stand in Your Own Light (January 2013)
Wilner’s lecture considers how and why we get in our own way as imaginative writers. She offers some models and a variety of strategies for getting out of the way and enabling the creative imagination—of which Lu Chi said in Wen Fu, his treatise on the art of writing: The truth of the thing lies inside us, but no power on earth can force it; and Louise Glück, writing 18 centuries later: The dream of art is not to assert what is already known but to illuminate what has been hidden, and the path to the hidden is not inscribed by will. How then to invoke what will not be commanded?
WILNER, ELEANOR: Making Waves (January 2014)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Making Waves (January 2014)
Wilner’s lecture considers what wave-watching can tell us about the powers of poetry and the shaping of story, what the physics of wave motion can tell us about the action of imagination, and how what moves us in a poem is connected to how it moves, and whose boat it rocks. Texts discussed include “Saturday, Early April” by William Kloefkorn, Larry Levis’s “Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage,” and Wallace Stevens’s “The Idea of Order at Key West.”
WILNER, ELEANOR: Playing the Changes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (January 1998)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Playing the Changes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (January 1998)
Eleanor Wilner offers close readings of several of Ovid’s stories and demonstrates that the poet undergoes a transformation during the act of writing. She contends that poetry is not impersonal, as T. S. Eliot asserted, but suggests that the action of a poet’s imagination is “transpersonal.” Wilner discusses the ways in which Ovid’s figures and stories have been renewed by a virtually endless stream of artists and goes on to focus on moments of transfiguration in the work of Gerald Stern, Thom Gunn, Jorie Graham, and others.
WILNER, ELEANOR: The Revolving Door of the Imagination (January 2009)
WILNER, ELEANOR: The Revolving Door of the Imagination (January 2009)
“Poetry at its most powerful,” Eleanor Wilner argues, allows us to “shift away” from what we expect to see; she suggests that such shifts can occur when the speaker finds ways to move “out of the shallows of the ego” and into a deeper kind of consciousness. Wilner examines poems by Richard Wilbur, Theodore Roethke, Radcliffe Squires and Gerald Stern to locate such moments of transformation— and consider the craft strategies that make them possible.
YOUN, MONICA: Nora/Laura (January 2014)
YOUN, MONICA: Nora/Laura (January 2014)
This lecture begins by describing a necklace James Joyce commissioned for his wife, Nora Barnacle, in 1909. Youn presents a theory of how the necklace relates to Joyce’s ideas about the Petrarchan sonnet, explores the form’s “hangover effect,” and presents a range of classical and contemporary examples, including works by Milton, Yeats, Rita Dove, and Bernadette Mayer.
YOUNG, C. DALE: An Examination of Two Poems by Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara (July 2010)
YOUNG, C. DALE: An Examination of Two Poems by Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara (July 2010)
What do we mean when we describe a novel or poem as accessible? C. Dale Young looks at Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, “Ave Maria” by Frank O’Hara, and “One Train May Hide Another” by Kenneth Koch to contest the idea that Conrad, O’Hara, and Koch are simple writers. Instead, Young explores how these writers use “veils of accessibility” to coax the reader past their apparently easy surfaces.

Lectures by Genre: Fiction

  MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
What prompts a poet to write fiction, or poets/fiction writers to undertake a memoir? Is the impulse toward “another genre” purely a formal choice, or is it made necessary by the material to be served? Are valuable lessons brought back to one’s “primary” genre? Or, will some of us spend our writing lives happily alternating among poems, novels, stories, essays, memoir and admixtures that defy taxonomy? Six faculty members report from own their experiences crossing the genre divide.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Baby I've Changed, I Swear: Creating Turning Points in Prose & Poetry (January 2012)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Baby I've Changed, I Swear: Creating Turning Points in Prose & Poetry (January 2012)
Fiction writer Dean Bakopoulos defines a “turning point” as an internal process in a speaker or character that affects the course of the poem or story, and sets into motion what will become the climax, resolution, conclusion, or epiphany. He identifies and considers the internal moments that are seeds of change, leaps towards epiphany, or transformations in stories and poems, including Richard Bausch’s “The Fireman’s Wife,” Junot Diaz’s “Nilda,” Mary Gaitskill’s “Tiny Smiling Daddy,” Reginald McKnight’s “The Kind of Lights That Shines on Texas,” Donald Hall’s “Affirmation,” Franz Wright’s “To Myself,” J. Allyn Rosser’s “As If,” and Richard Hugo’s, “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg.”
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Let Us Consider the Kitchen: The User's Guide to Lists, Maps, and Inventories (January 2014)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Let Us Consider the Kitchen: The User's Guide to Lists, Maps, and Inventories (January 2014)
Bakopoulos’s discussion class examines the uses of lists and litanies in poetry and prose as a way to heighten momentum and illuminate syntax. Among the texts discussed are William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow and works by Tillie Olsen, Susan Minot, and Stuart Dybek.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Postponement in Fiction (January 2010)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Postponement in Fiction (January 2010)
Shaped by Lorca’s concept of duende, Dean Bakopoulos’ lecture explores the effect that moments of stillness can have when they come against backdrops of intense action. Bakoupolos draws on fiction by John Cheever, James Joyce, and Jane Smiley, poetry by Richard Hugo and James Wright, and Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” to consider how these writers allow their characters, and their readers, to access the “deep song” in their lives.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Rainbows for All God's Children (& Other Horror Stories) (January 2013)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Rainbows for All God's Children (& Other Horror Stories) (January 2013)
A meditation on the challenges of narrative momentum in prose and poetry, this lecture attempts to use lessons from the horror genre and apply them to writing that is not always plot-driven. Among the stories discussed are Z.Z. Packer’s “Brownies,” Stuart Dybek’s “Paper Lanterns,” and “Dance in America” by Lorrie Moore.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: The Lyricism of Upheaval (January 2011)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: The Lyricism of Upheaval (January 2011)
Dean Bakopoulos challenges the workshop maxim that “less is more” and asks what happens when writers drop “the cloak of restraint” and move into the “realm of excess.” Fiction which seeks to enact emotional upheaval and intensity need not be melodramatic, he argues. Drawing on examples from fiction, poetry, and music, Bakopoulos looks at the strategies used in Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Barry Hannah’s “Love Too Long,” Aleksander Hemon’s Nowhere Man, and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, as well as Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago.”
BAXTER, CHARLES: Dramatic Interventions: The Request Moment (July 2013)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Dramatic Interventions: The Request Moment (July 2013)
Dramatic situations are often set into motion when one character makes a request of another; poems, too, may acquire a certain energy from requests made within them. These requests tell us something about the social group in which they occur, and they tell us about the obligations one character may have for another. Examples are offered from Shakespeare, A. E. Housman, Shirley Jackson, Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and others.
BAXTER, CHARLES: Fugitive Subjectivity (July 2014)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Fugitive Subjectivity (July 2014)
What happens within a story when there may be no one to whom a story can be told, or the story itself is somehow unspeakable? Baxter explores “fugitive subjectivity”—subjectivity without an outlet—in the toxic narratives that result, focusing on John Cheever’s “The Country Husband.”
BAXTER, CHARLES: Narrative Urgency (July 2010)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Narrative Urgency (July 2010)
Narratives should be organized, Charles Baxter remarks in this lecture, “around the truth of the material and not the deployment of devices.” Yet urgency is crucial to good fiction. Drawing on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Paula Fox’s The Widow’s Children, Joan Silber’s The Size of the World, Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Pet Dog,” and Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, Baxter offers a variety of strategies writers can use to deepen suspense and tension in their work.
BAXTER, CHARLES: Regarding Happiness (July 2008)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Regarding Happiness (July 2008)
Why, Charles Baxter asks, is happiness such an intractable subject for treatment in extended dramatic forms, whether poetry or fiction? While reflecting on the difficulties in writing about happiness, Baxter offers several strategies writers can use to approach the subject; he turns to Czeslaw Milosz’s “Gift,” Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River,” and John Cheever’s “The Worm in the Apple” for examples.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Complex Moments in Fiction (July 2010)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Complex Moments in Fiction (July 2010)
Most readers have had the experience of responding viscerally to a particular moment in a piece of fiction; in this lecture, Robert Boswell considers how such “complex moments” are made. Through close readings of work by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forster, William Faulkner, and Kazuo Ishiguro, Boswell suggests that narratives have horizontal and vertical planes, and that writers can manage the intersections between these planes to create moments of lasting resonance.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Having Gravity and Having Weight: On Meaning in Fiction (July 2013)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Having Gravity and Having Weight: On Meaning in Fiction (July 2013)
The lecture muses on meaning, focusing on rarely discussed aspects of craft. Texts referred to include Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and Sherwood Anderson's "Death in the Woods."
BOSWELL, ROBERT: On Characters and Characterization (January 2012)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: On Characters and Characterization (January 2012)
Looking at Joyce’s “The Dead,” Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Munro’s “Friend of my Youth,” and Welty’s “The Wide Net,” Boswell develops twelve possible useful stratagems for establishing complex and believable characters, including imagining a character’s approach to the inscrutable, describing the illusions to which a character clings, and exposing a character’s darkest and ugliest motivations.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: The Man in the Water: Sub-Aqua Commerce in Maximal Short Fiction (July 2011)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: The Man in the Water: Sub-Aqua Commerce in Maximal Short Fiction (July 2011)
Robert Boswell examines what he calls “big stories,” or short stories which manage in relatively few pages to convey the complexity and expansiveness of the larger world. How can a writer generate this sense of expansiveness? And what strategies can be used to make a “big story” cohere? Boswell explores these questions, focusing on examples from William Trevor and Alice Munro.
CASEY, MAUD: States of Wonder (January 2012)
CASEY, MAUD: States of Wonder (January 2012)
“Wonder in art, as in life, is difficult to pin down and hard to talk about,” says Maud Casey. “It is a state of marveling in the face of something inexplicable, perplexing, bewildering, and yet utterly compelling.” Casey offers a meditation on this elusive state, exploring the tensions between the implausible and the credible in Deszo Kosztolanyi’s Skylark, Stephen Milhauser’s “In the Reign of Harad IV,” as well as in works by Werner Herzog and Isaac Babel.
CASEY, MAUD: The Art of Sensibility (July 2010)
CASEY, MAUD: The Art of Sensibility (July 2010)
In order to make a character compelling, the author must capture a specific human consciousness on the page. But how can writers make palpable that aspect of a person that often eludes description—his or her sensibility? Maud Casey offers three methods for depicting sensibility in fiction, looking to Barbara Comyns’ The Vet’s Daughter, Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark, and Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent as examples.
CASEY, MAUD: Watching the Clock (July 2009)
CASEY, MAUD: Watching the Clock (July 2009)
Fiction is not an expression of real time, Maud Casey notes, and yet it is very much occupied by time; novels and stories are shaped and organized, their revelations dramatized, by the illusion of time passing. Through close readings of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters, and Paul LaFarge’s Haussmann, Casey considers different ways fiction writers can depict chronological as well as what she calls “emotional time” and the complex relationship between past and present.
CASTELLANI, CHRISTOPHER: Objective Correlative (July 2012)
CASTELLANI, CHRISTOPHER: Objective Correlative (July 2012)
Christopher Castellani examines the usefulness of T.S. Eliot’s concept of the objective correlative for the fiction writer. Through a close reading of Peter Cameron’s novel Coral Glynn and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Castellani explores the power of the objective correlative to evoke strong emotion in the reader, as well as to seamlessly introduce back-story and necessary information into a narrative.
COHEN, ROBERT:
COHEN, ROBERT: "Refer Madness": Writing in an Age of Allusion (July 2012)
In this lecture, Robert Cohen considers the dilemma faced by contemporary fiction writers seeking to create work not reliant on allusion or reference. Using as a jumping-off point Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Wish to be a Red Indian,” Cohen discusses reference and allusion in Joyce’s Dubliners, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and William Gaddis’s The Recognitions. Cohen demonstrates how difficult it is for contemporary writers to avoid these stratagems, but argues that therein lies opportunity for new kinds of creativity.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Creation of Intimacy (July 2009)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Creation of Intimacy (July 2009)
Most of us know, Stacey D’Erasmo suggests, how to put characters in a room and get them to talk, fight, trouble and/or seduce one another— we know, that is, how to create an impression of intimacy through dialogue and action. But intimacy can be expressed by means of a variety of subtle textual strategies far more deeply implicating the reader in the characters’ emotional lives; D’Erasmo draws on fiction by D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth Bowen, William Maxwell, Virginia Woolf and Charles Baxter for examples.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Love Among the Ruins (July 2008)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Love Among the Ruins (July 2008)
Stacey D’Erasmo argues that the novel of sexual identity is no longer, on its own, compelling. Yet certain of the sexual identity novel’s tropes—the narratives of passing and of double lives, of desire stifled by circumstance and of discontinuous selves—remain compelling to contemporary writers. D’Erasmo looks at work by Michael Cunningham, Jeannette Winterson, Colm Toibin, Monique Truong and others to explore how the architecture of the sexual identity novel has been recycled and transformed.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: On the Unsayable (January 2011)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: On the Unsayable (January 2011)
What, Stacey D’Erasmo asks, is the meaning of “the unsayable” for a writer today? She argues that the heart of the question lies not in which topics may be taboo and why, but rather in subject matter which “we fear language will be inadequate” to portray. Looking closely at Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, D’Erasmo explores how these novelists use indirection to narrate stories about the horrors of slavery and nuclear apocalypse.
DOENGES, JUDY: We Are One: First Person Plural (July 2009)
DOENGES, JUDY: We Are One: First Person Plural (July 2009)
How does a literature focused almost exclusively on the life of the individual make room for the occasional work of fiction that uses a collective first-person narrator? How does using such a point of view impact the contract between writer and reader? In this lecture, Judy Doenges looks at Ayn Rand’s Anthem as a negative and Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End as a positive example of the possibilities and ramifications, both aesthetic and political, of writing fiction in the first-person plural.
DOERR, ANTHONY: Suspense (January 2010)
DOERR, ANTHONY: Suspense (January 2010)
What makes suspense compelling instead of melodramatic? Through close readings of work by Camus, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph Conrad, Cormac McCarthy, and Edgar Allen Poe, Anthony Doerr suggests that well-executed suspense functions at a number of levels, so that even as smaller moments of literal suspense are resolved, larger, figurative questions continue to grow.
GAVRON, JEREMY: In Praise of Omission (July 2012)
GAVRON, JEREMY: In Praise of Omission (July 2012)
In this class, Jeremy Gavron considers the question of how much information to include in a work of fiction, looking at choices made by several contemporary writers. Gavron compares the richness of the opening pages of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections to the relative sparseness of Amoz Oz’s The Same Sea and Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room and pays particular attention to how each writer subtly varies his approach.
GAVRON, JEREMY: Whose Story is it Anyway? (July 2011)
GAVRON, JEREMY: Whose Story is it Anyway? (July 2011)
Jeremy Gavron considers the limitations and benefits of using a secondary character as a narrator in a work of fiction. Looking at Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes and Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, among other novels, Gavron suggests that a narrator’s lack of full access to the “hero” of a story can intensify our attention to the hero and lend the narration a quality of truth-telling.
GROFF, LAUREN: Horror Vacui: On Gaps, Spaces, and Silences (July 2014)
GROFF, LAUREN: Horror Vacui: On Gaps, Spaces, and Silences (July 2014)
The gaps in a text may be empty of words, but full of resonance, the vacuum filled instantly by the reader’s swift comprehension. Groff’s lecture questions and explores varieties of white space in a text—pauses, rests, caesurae, silences—in works by Perec, Levi, Duras, Beckett, and others.
GROSSMAN, JUDITH: Instead of a Muse: A Genealogy for Stories (January 2014)
GROSSMAN, JUDITH: Instead of a Muse: A Genealogy for Stories (January 2014)
Elements of the folktale persist throughout the transformations of the modern story. Grossman’s lecture investigates how the Hero/Heroine, the Enemy and the Ally, the Treasure, the loss of a parent or exile from home, and the factor of lucky work like traditional post-and-beam in narrative, looking at the Grimm Brothers’ “The Devil with Three Golden Hairs,” E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Sandman,” Samuel Beckett’s “First Love,” and stories by Alice Munro.
HAYNES, DAVID: Narration, Narrators, and Edward P. Jones (January 2012)
HAYNES, DAVID: Narration, Narrators, and Edward P. Jones (January 2012)
David Haynes draws from Frederick Reiken’s essay, “The Author-Narrator-Character Merge,” to focus discussion on the nature of narrative, and in particular, on Edward P. Jones’s innovative approach. Haynes outlines possible techniques for orienting a reader, including the management of narrative time, the release of information, summation and judgment, and the modulation of narrative distance. Close readings of Jones’s stories “Old Boys, Old Girls” and “A Rich Man” highlight issues of when and why an author might choose to draw attention to narration, as well as when an appropriate choice might be to render narrative techniques invisible.
HAYNES, DAVID: Novels from the Ground Up (July 2012)
HAYNES, DAVID: Novels from the Ground Up (July 2012)
In this class, David Haynes examines some of the formal aspects of the novel. Using Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson before Dying as a blueprint for long works of fiction, Haynes identifies what is needed to start a novel’s engine and what’s needed to maintain narrative momentum. Haynes gives special attention to the ways in which a novel’s opening establishes its terms and shape.
HAYNES, DAVID: Would You Like to See My Cat Mammy? Looking at Other People and their Stuff (January 2014)
HAYNES, DAVID: Would You Like to See My Cat Mammy? Looking at Other People and their Stuff (January 2014)
Are you a white person who is just dying to include people of color in your next novel? Comfortably middle class and just fascinated as all get out with those quirky folks down at the trailer park? Does this course description make you a little bit queasy? Then this is the class for you! Haynes’s discussion class looks at how shifting lenses of creator/narrator/reader/viewer shape the development of and interpretation of cultural material in creative works. Among the texts discussed are works by Allan Gurganus’s White People, Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” and David Foster Wallace’s “Ticket to the Fair.”
HORROCKS, CAITLIN: When Bad Stories Go Good (July 2013)
HORROCKS, CAITLIN: When Bad Stories Go Good (July 2013)
Caitlin Horrocks talks about stories that wear their “bad ideas” proudly, requiring clichés to be redeemed, craft commandments to be broken, challenging or bizarre subjects to be tackled. Readers recognize the possibility of disaster in these stories, and cheer when the author emerges unscathed. Stories by Todd James Pierce, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Suan Sontag, and “Chris Drangle are examined for techniques or approaches that help risky stories succeed.
HRIBAL, C.J.: Go Little Book: Obsession in General and the Novella in Particular (January 2014)
HRIBAL, C.J.: Go Little Book: Obsession in General and the Novella in Particular (January 2014)
As writers, we often worry about not repeating ourselves, yet many wonderful writers return repeatedly to the same essential material. Hribal’s lecture extols the virtues of obsession, and offers a paean to the novella, a narrative form which allows writers to embody their inner obsessive. Among those texts discussed are Andre Dubus’s “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” and Jane Smiley’s “Ordinary Love” and “The Age of Grief.”
HRIBAL, C.J.: Revelatory Information and the Art of Mystery (January 2010)
HRIBAL, C.J.: Revelatory Information and the Art of Mystery (January 2010)
C.J. Hribal considers the kind of mystery that can be produced when crucial narrative information is released early in the text. How can this strategy deepen suspense instead of resolving it? Hribal looks to music and fiction to explore this question, giving particular attention to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
LIVESEY, MARGOT: Mrs. Turpin Reads the Stars: Creating Characters (January 2012)
LIVESEY, MARGOT: Mrs. Turpin Reads the Stars: Creating Characters (January 2012)
In this lecture, novelist Livesey investigates the theory and practice of creating a character alive enough “to walk off the page.” Surveying work by Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, and John Cheever, Livesey argues that though many memorable characters are by contemporary definition “flat,” they were not conceived of as such, but rather are “always capable of reaching after roundness,” and therefore can be used to subvert and enliven reader expectations. With additional readings from Richard Ford, John Metcalf, and Ivy Compton-Burnett, Livesey concludes her class with a discussion of the ways in which both imagination and technique contribute to successful characterization.
MAZUR, GRACE DANE: Forbidden Looking (July 2008)
MAZUR, GRACE DANE: Forbidden Looking (July 2008)
What is looking, Grace Dane Mazur asks, that it should be so enticing, so fatal, and so forbidden? How is looking different from seeing? What kind of insight is gained from forbidden looking, and is it worth the consequences? Mazur considers these questions through the lens of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and reflects on the differences in how Rubens, Virgil, and Ovid represent Orpheus’ famous look back.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Focalization (January 2013)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Focalization (January 2013)
The tensions of looking and being looked at are essential in all narrative. What asks to be focused upon? What resists focalization? At what moment does something come into focus, and at what critical moment does something elude focus? For some writers, a significant breakthrough occurs when they move past their first assumptions about “looking” behaviors. McIlvoy’s lecture concentrates primarily on Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), specifically to the editions that include the “Dunnett Landing” stories.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Opportunities for Imminence (January 2009)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Opportunities for Imminence (January 2009)
If imminence is the state in which events are about to occur, isn’t it the fiction writer’s job to fulfill that “about-to,” and make things happen? In this lecture, Kevin McIlvoy suggests otherwise. Through close readings of Grimm’s fairytales, James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Sherwood Anderson’s “Death in the Woods,” and Agha Shahid Ali’s “The Last Saffron,” McIlvoy explores the power and possibility that can be produced when writers dwell longer in “about-to-happen” conditions.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Reflections on the Sentence and Poetic Line (January 2011)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Reflections on the Sentence and Poetic Line (January 2011)
Kevin McIlvoy considers differences and similarities between the prose sentence and the poetic line. If a sentence functions as “a train to a destination,” he argues that the poetic line is often a kind of “pedestrian” whose guidance of the reader “invites discovery, not destination.” McIlvoy goes on to consider writing that creates points of intersections between the sentence and the line, drawing on poetry by Denise Levertov, Thom Gunn, and Jean Valentine; fiction by Angela Carter, Jim Crace, and Herta Müller; and critical studies including The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt and The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach.
McILVOY, KEVIN: The Equilibrist and The Dynamist (January 2014)
McILVOY, KEVIN: The Equilibrist and The Dynamist (January 2014)
This lecture presents ways in which writers can present the elements of their work that move it toward "dynamic balance" (verging on achieving balance and falling out of balance in the very same moment), while not moving it away from equilibrium. Through close consideration of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and C.D. Wright's Deepstep Come Shining, the lecture addresses concepts of "the wolf tone," "surroundability and directionality," and the "altered instruments" of poetic syntax and story structure.
McILVOY, KEVIN: The One Reader (January 2012)
McILVOY, KEVIN: The One Reader (January 2012)
Kevin McIlvoy examines the influence an imagined reader, receptive or resistant, can exert on a writer. He selects prose poems by Russell Edson, Matthea Harvey, Francis Ponge, William Stafford, and James Tate as works which, he suggests, are both mistakes and “the perfection of mistakes.” McIlvoy encourages writers to think about what might be possible were they to imagine their “one reader” as positive and receptive, able to appreciate such work, rather than resistant.
NEVILLE, SUSAN: The Paragraph (July 2011)
NEVILLE, SUSAN: The Paragraph (July 2011)
Susan Neville suggests that paragraphing, like prosody, is a musical device. Through close readings of work by Andre Dubus, George Saunders, Sylvia Plath and Marilynne Robinson, she explores how writers can use different kinds of paragraphs to generate feeling and tone, and convey information about their characters.
OHLIN, ALIX: Misfits and Malfeasance: The Criminal Act in Fiction (July 2012)
OHLIN, ALIX: Misfits and Malfeasance: The Criminal Act in Fiction (July 2012)
In this class, Alix Ohlin considers stylistic approaches to the portrayal of criminal acts in fiction. Looking at works by Raymond Chandler, Carson McCullers, and Alice Munro, Ohlin explores how charged moments of criminality can shift tone and texture. Ohlin argues that acts of violence and betrayal, often rendered lyrically, are integral not only to plot development, but also to successful, nuanced characterization.
OHLIN, ALIX: The Afterimage (July 2011)
OHLIN, ALIX: The Afterimage (July 2011)
Alix Ohlin explores how the idea of the afterimage, or that which lingers in our sight after a vivid visual sensation, might be applied to fiction. Through close readings of “Killings” by Andre Dubus, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and “Wants” by Grace Paley, Ohlin shows how a writer can call up an image which reminds us of what came before, thus creating both echoes of the past and surprising visions of the future.
ORNER, PETER: Reading is Experience (July 2013)
ORNER, PETER: Reading is Experience (July 2013)
Peter Orner examines the work of the masterful, and vastly under-appreciated, English novelist, Henry Green. By zeroing in on two of Green's most famous and innovative novels, Loving and Party Going, Orner discusses technical and emotional aspects of Green's unusual and unique style, and emphasizes that the key to Green's work is his uncanny ability to see and listen to his characters. As Eudora Welty wrote in 1970, "The intelligence, the blazing gifts of imagery, dialogue, construction, and form, the power to feel both what can and what can never be said, give Henry Green's work an intensity greater...than any writer of imaginative fiction today."
PARKER, MICHAEL: All Hail the Semi-Colon (January 2011)
PARKER, MICHAEL: All Hail the Semi-Colon (January 2011)
Michael Parker explores the particular value of a semi-colon both as a form of punctuation and in terms of the broader lessons it can teach about writing. Parker argues that the semi-colon embodies ambivalence, since it is more “penetrating than a comma” and “less blunt than a period.” He shows how use of the semi-colon significantly contributes to the development of character and meaning in such short-shorts as Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and John Cheever’s “Reunion,” as well as in Lydia Davis’ translation of Madame Bovary.
PARSONS, ALEXANDER: Lasting First Impressions: The Novel Opening (July 2011)
PARSONS, ALEXANDER: Lasting First Impressions: The Novel Opening (July 2011)
Alexander Parsons suggests that an effective novel opening can guide the writer in both subtle and direct ways, even in its early stages of composition. Drawing on examples from Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Chandler and Haruki Murakami, Parsons argues that in drafting and redrafting this section of a novel the writer engages with structure, controlling metaphor, motif, and tone—narrative elements which can help define the book as a whole.
ROMM, ROBIN: Great Neurotics (January 2014)
ROMM, ROBIN: Great Neurotics (January 2014)
What makes a neurotic narrator so compelling, so full of life for so many writers (and readers)? Romm’s lecture explains the craft implications of hyper-vigilance, obsessiveness, and overthinking, and explores how these qualities make for excellent prose in works such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding, and others.
ROMM, ROBIN: The Unsparing Gaze (January 2013)
ROMM, ROBIN: The Unsparing Gaze (January 2013)
Romm’s lecture discusses two authors who use “the unsparing gaze” toward very different ends. Edward St. Aubyn’s tragic and autobiographical “Patrick Melrose Novels” explore how childhood incest wreaks havoc on a psyche. Alison Lurie’s comic social satire “The War Between the Tates” skewers gender roles and marriage. Both authors, Romm observes, “make the most of discomfort, an excellent aim for any artist.”
SCHWARTZ, STEVEN: Mythic Characters (July 2009)
SCHWARTZ, STEVEN: Mythic Characters (July 2009)
Some of the most memorable and famous characters in literature—Kurtz, Gatsby, Bartleby, The Misfit—are often the most psychologically inaccessible, viewed only from the outside, opaque surfaces onto which other characters’ projections can be mapped. In this lecture, Steven Schwartz looks at fiction by Joseph Conrad, Flannery O’Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Millhauser, Katherine Anne Porter and J.D. Salinger to investigate how such mythic characters are made.
SMITH, DOMINIC: The Mystery of Personality: Paradox, Consistency, and the Limits of Psychology in Creating Compelling Fictional Characters (January 2013)
SMITH, DOMINIC: The Mystery of Personality: Paradox, Consistency, and the Limits of Psychology in Creating Compelling Fictional Characters (January 2013)
When Flannery O’Connor said, “A story always involves, in a dramatic way, the mystery of personality,” she highlighted a key tension for the literary fiction writer—how to create characters who are both consistent and paradoxical. While the psychologist might be interested in understanding and categorizing the tangled web of personality, the fiction writer is primarily interested in revealing it. And as O’Connor reminds us, that revelation must happen in a dramatic way. Smith’s lecture explores our cultural understanding of personality, how it impedes and/or aids our explorations on the page, and some practical ways we might harness personality as an inherently dramatic “vehicle.”
SMITH, DOMINIC: Varieties of Movement: Plot and Beyond in Fiction (January 2009)
SMITH, DOMINIC: Varieties of Movement: Plot and Beyond in Fiction (January 2009)
What keeps us turning the pages of prose pieces by W.G. Sebald or Gertrude Stein, works known for their lack of “event”? In this lecture, Dominic Smith challenges and expands conventional ideas about how fiction can move. Drawing on Aristotle’s Poetics, Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and David Markson’s The Last Novel, Smith considers a variety of types of plot, as well as other devices that can generate momentum at a more molecular level.
SPARK, DEBRA: Raiding the Larder: Research in Fact-Based Fiction (July 2013)
SPARK, DEBRA: Raiding the Larder: Research in Fact-Based Fiction (July 2013)
Combining her own interviews with Charles Baxter, David Bezmozgia, Lily King, and Jim Shepard with online and print interviews with Kate Atkinson, Colum McCann and William Maxwell, Debra Spark discusses how contemporary writers use research to inspire, authenticate and correct their narratives. While always emphasizing that research is a means to a fictive end, not a goal in itself, she explores the artistic and personal pleasures of going to the library, interviewing, traveling, and even Googling obsessively.
SPARK, DEBRA: Surprise Me (July 2014)
SPARK, DEBRA: Surprise Me (July 2014)
How do we think of surprise in fiction? As an antidote to boredom, a gift of the subconscious, or welcome strangeness? Spark’s lecture considers how even the quotidian can shock us through plot twists, formal invention, character revelation, or language that distills the nature of the real.
SPARK, DEBRA: That's Funny (July 2012)
SPARK, DEBRA: That's Funny (July 2012)
In this lecture, Debra Spark questions how humor functions in contemporary fiction. Comparing the novels Personal Days by Ed Parks and Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, Spark looks at the comedic qualities of each and identifies the means by which the virtues of gratitude and humility are conveyed to readers. Spark’s discussion also makes mention of fictional moments by Etgar Keret, Shalom Auslander, and Maggie Shipstead which lead to important considerations of characterization, precise observation, truth-telling, and emotional power.
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Breaking Out: Narrative Shifts (January 2012)
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Breaking Out: Narrative Shifts (January 2012)
Megan Staffel examines how the “break-out scene,” which changes the tonal register and trajectory of a piece of fiction, deepens characterization and narrative drive. Looking at “The Dead,” she show how Joyce uses scenes of stillness to suspend characters in a kind of tension which pressures them to change both understanding and behavior, and allows him to boldly change the direction of his story. Staffel also explores the crafting and effects of break-out scenes in Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire which, while resulting in profound changes in the characters, never feel staged or arbitrary—rather, Staffel says, each is accomplished “in a manner that’s so concise and natural, it has the ambiguity of raw experience.”
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Now You See It, Now You Don't: A Glimpse into the Locked Box (January 2014)
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Now You See It, Now You Don't: A Glimpse into the Locked Box (January 2014)
This two-hour discussion class led by Megan Staffel explores what is gained when the writer shows the protagonist having a sublime experience in the early pages of a novel. Not only does it allow the reader insight into the character’s secret ambition, but it establishes the reader’s sympathy with the character’s often risky or impossible purpose: to return to the sublime that was so fleetingly achieved.
STONE, SARAH: Strategic Opacity (July 2014)
STONE, SARAH: Strategic Opacity (July 2014)
An imaginative work needs to embody, rather than explain, its world and its people. Stephen Greenblatt uses the term “Strategic Opacity” in discussing Shakespeare’s approach to character motivation. Stone adopts this idea as her jumping-off point to explore character and plot mysteries in Jamaica Kinkaid’s At the Bottom of the River, Joy Williams’ The Quick and the Dead, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
STONE, SARAH: The Pleasures of Hell (July 2012)
STONE, SARAH: The Pleasures of Hell (July 2012)
Sarah Stone explores aesthetic choices that make depictions of “hell” in literature pleasurable. Referring to Dante’s Inferno, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, and Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black, Stone demonstrates ways in which writers entice readers to enjoy morally disturbing and painful matters.
TURCHI, PETER:
TURCHI, PETER: "If it makes you happy, why the hell are you so sad?" (July 2008)
In this lecture about tonal and emotional range, the combination of darkness and light, Peter Turchi reflects on the powerful effect that mixed emotions can have in music and in fiction. Turchi examines the ways in which Joe Turner’s song “Honey Hush” and fiction by James Thurber, Anton Chekhov, Cormac McCarthy, and Vladimir Nabokov layer contrasting emotions on top of one another; he shows how this layering can disrupt the reader’s assumptions and give the work lasting resonance.
TURCHI, PETER: All Around the World, or the Myth of Linearity (July 2011)
TURCHI, PETER: All Around the World, or the Myth of Linearity (July 2011)
Peter Turchi draws on a range of writing, including non-fiction by Tim Ingold and Kandinsky, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and short stories by Italo Calvino, Andre Dubus and Alice Munro, to challenge the idea that our reading experience should follow a clear line from one fixed point to another. Instead, Turchi suggests, the reader can be encouraged to dwell in the story’s labyrinth, and even find that dwelling pleasurable.
TURCHI, PETER: Archimedes' Problem, and Three Solutions (January 2009)
TURCHI, PETER: Archimedes' Problem, and Three Solutions (January 2009)
“Give me a place to stand and a lever,” Peter Turchi quotes Archimedes as claiming, “and I will move the Earth.” In this lecture, Turchi looks at John Updike’s Rabbit is Rich, E.L. Doctorow’s The March, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude to consider how writers can make “levers” to propel their narratives forward. Turchi pays particular attention to the openings of these novels, suggesting that writers can use beginnings to establish the rules and themes of what is to come.
TURCHI, PETER: Power Play (July 2013)
TURCHI, PETER: Power Play (July 2013)
Peter Turchi discusses different forms of power in fiction, and the possibilities made available when power shifts among three or more characters. His examples include Alice Munro's "Royal Beatings," Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and Katherine Anne Porter’s “Noon Wine.”
TURCHI, PETER: The Pleasures of Difficulty (July 2010)
TURCHI, PETER: The Pleasures of Difficulty (July 2010)
Peter Turchi explores how writing that is challenging engages the reader, offering greater fulfillment and pleasure than easy writing would. Turchi draws on fiction by Antonya Nelson, Charles D’Ambrosio, Michael Ondaatje, and Thomas Bernhard, as well as Mahler’s 5th Symphony and theories about successful video games, to consider how writers can effectively incorporate mystery and difficulty into their work.

Lectures by Genre: Poetry

  MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
What prompts a poet to write fiction, or poets/fiction writers to undertake a memoir? Is the impulse toward “another genre” purely a formal choice, or is it made necessary by the material to be served? Are valuable lessons brought back to one’s “primary” genre? Or, will some of us spend our writing lives happily alternating among poems, novels, stories, essays, memoir and admixtures that defy taxonomy? Six faculty members report from own their experiences crossing the genre divide.
ALESHIRE, JOAN:  Out of Extremity: Emotion and Conscience (July 1989)
ALESHIRE, JOAN: Out of Extremity: Emotion and Conscience (July 1989)
Joan Aleshire considers how literature addressing extremes of human experience must establish a balance between the personal and the universal, the inner and the outer world. Looking at poems by Bishop, Kunitz, Lowell, Mandelstam, Olds and others, she warns against glorifying or overdramatizing the pain which is a fundamental part of life. At the same time, she argues, with Kafka, that the well-made work of literature wields the power of an ax “to break the frozen sea within us” and deliver us to ourselves.
ALI, AGHA SHAHID:  Defense of the Canon: A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males (January 1998)
ALI, AGHA SHAHID: Defense of the Canon: A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males (January 1998)
Agha Shahid Ali examines the difference between subject matter and form, asserting that “the more realized the form, the deeper the content.” He tests his principle in the context of the English Canon formed in India to serve the purposes of colonialism. Quoting the provocative claim that “One shelf of English literature is superior to all the art in the history of the world,” Ali offers an historical and political understanding of the standards set by English literature and the effect of these standards on writers today. Among the texts considered are Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue,” Wallace Stevens’ “Snow Man,” and essays by T.S. Eliot, Salman Rushdie, John Ashbery, V.S. Naipaul and others.
ALLBERY, DEBRA: Learning to Read (January 2013)
ALLBERY, DEBRA: Learning to Read (January 2013)
“One cannot read a book,” Nabokov wrote, “one can only reread it.” Delivered as the opening talk of the January 2013 residency, this meditation on rereading explores how our ongoing and evolving relationships with signal texts mirror the development and re-vision of individual and cultural aesthetics.
BAROT, RICK: The Sea and the Zebra: Visual Effects in Poems (January 2011)
BAROT, RICK: The Sea and the Zebra: Visual Effects in Poems (January 2011)
Rick Barot explores the differences between description and image and examines the ways in which images in poetry are arranged, presented, or withheld. While description is often used to clarify, Barot points out that the most effective images rely on distortion. Through close readings of Philip Larkin’s “As Bad As a Mile,” Elaine Scarry’s “Dreaming by the Book”, Philip Larkin’s “As Bad as a Mile,” Robert Creeley’s “Something,” Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, Robert Frost’s “Out, Out—,” Laura Jensen’s “As the Window Darkens,” C.K. Williams’ “Droplets” and others, Barot demonstrates how poets can manipulate images to communicate more than what mere description can.
BAROT, RICK: The Voice In Question (January 2012)
BAROT, RICK: The Voice In Question (January 2012)
How does a writer craft a voice which is able to compel a reader’s belief as well as surprise her? Investigating works as diverse as Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” Thomas McGuane’s “War and Peace,” and Adrienne Rich’s “The Trees,” Barot demonstrates the ways in which tone, conveyed through a poem’s syntax, diction, and formal elements, is crucial to creating a truly individualized voice rather than one of mere caricature.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: O'Connor and Bishop: Closely, at a Distance (July 2011)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: O'Connor and Bishop: Closely, at a Distance (July 2011)
Marianne Boruch examines tonal distance and imagistic precision in the work of two perhaps unlikely correspondents—Flannery O’Connor and Elizabeth Bishop. Drawing on O’Connor’s fiction, Bishop’s poetry, their visual art, and the letters they exchanged, Boruch explores the mutual influence and respect between the two writers.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Plath's Bees (July 1990)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Plath's Bees (July 1990)
Marianne Boruch traces the growth of Sylvia Plath’s bee sequence in Ariel from obsessive image to transcendent poetry. Using passages from early fiction as well as later letters and journal entries, Boruch shows us how Plath turned again and again to details of her actual experience of keeping a hive as she slowly developed her totemic image. Boruch argues that this lived experience of bee-keeping allowed Plath to ground her astonishing lyric sequence, “five poems written in one sleepless week,” in “the lucidity and vigor of narrative.”
BORUCH, MARIANNE: The Little Death of the Self (January 2010)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: The Little Death of the Self (January 2010)
Framed as a response to the contemporary impulse to “kill the ‘I’ in the poem,” Marianne Boruch’s lecture considers the possibilities of the lyric voice. What if, rather than narrowing the poem, the “I” opened it up to a wider perspective? Boruch looks at footage from the Hindenburg disaster and at poems by Perillo, Dickinson, Plath, Frost, Hopkins, and others to demonstrate ways in which the “I” can be both personal and more than personal.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Three Blakes (January 2013)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Three Blakes (January 2013)
To read Blake or to stare into his engravings and paintings is to be taken back to the source of what we do. Focusing on Songs of Innocence and Experience, Boruch’s lecture presents a triptych of Blakes, as she investigates his brilliant, quirky, often heroic way with image as artist and poet—as well as “the sound of it, song, in our time and his,” which she explores with the bravura accompaniment of William Bolcom’s settings of Blake’s work.
CALVOCORESSI, GABRIELLE: The Beams of Our House(s) Are Cedar(s): Erotic Specificity in the Song of Songs (July 2012)
CALVOCORESSI, GABRIELLE: The Beams of Our House(s) Are Cedar(s): Erotic Specificity in the Song of Songs (July 2012)
Gabrielle Calvocoressi leads a discussion on specificity in the Song of Songs, focusing on how use of detail creates narrative clarity and also deepens mystery. The class examines the language used to describe intense physical love and highlights the ways in which linguistic choices radically affect understanding of content.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: A Sense of Space (January 2010)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: A Sense of Space (January 2010)
Stephen Dobyns conducts close readings of the first paragraph of Henry James’ The Middle Years and William Butler Yeats’ poem “Her Praise” to examine how both writers create a sense of spaciousness in a small amount of text. Drawing on Yeats’ biography and on information about his writing process, Dobyns shows how James and Yeats use a range of craft strategies to imply the larger world.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Baudelaire (January 2012)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Baudelaire (January 2012)
Stephen Dobyns provides an introduction to the life, poetic project, and influence of Charles Baudelaire, often called the first modern poet. Drawing on biographical material as well as some of the poet’s essays, Dobyns offers close readings of poems from The Flowers of Evil, tracing in them an inherent tension between passionate love and the spiritual life, as well as early and influential gestures of Symbolism.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Context and Causality (January 2009)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Context and Causality (January 2009)
Stephen Dobyns examines how we read poems that rely on outside context, such as Berryman’s “Dream Song 18, A Strut for Roethke” and W.B. Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan.” Our reading of Berryman’s poem, for example, is shaped by knowledge of Roethke’s death and of the elegiac tradition. Arguing that such knowledge can help us understand the writer’s intention, Dobyns proposes ways in which the poet can establish context for the reader, regardless of the poem’s subject.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Economy, Intensity, and Ferocity: Poems by R.S. Thomas (July 2011)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Economy, Intensity, and Ferocity: Poems by R.S. Thomas (July 2011)
Stephen Dobyns investigates Welsh poet R.S. Thomas’s uses of elements of form, in particular sonic qualities, to create tension, energy and emotion within his poems. Drawing on work from throughout Thomas’ career, Dobyns examines how his methods changed over a fifty-year period.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Linebreaks (July 2008)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Linebreaks (July 2008)
In this lecture, Stephen Dobyns considers the function of linebreaks in metered and non-metered poetry, focusing on how they can be used to convey nuance. Drawing on poems by Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Matthew Arnold, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, James Wright and Louise Glück, Dobyns explores a variety of types of line breaks and examines how they work, in the context of each particular poem, to create rhythm and meaning.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: On Structure (January 1990)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: On Structure (January 1990)
Offering close readings of Philip Larkin’s “The Explosion” and Lon Otto’s “A Very Short Story,” Stephen Dobyns argues that structure is both the means by which information is released and the information itself. He states that structure, whether in poetry or prose, represents the means by which formal elements (language, texture, pacing, and tone) may be imposed upon informal elements (action, emotion, setting and idea). In conclusion, Dobyns cautions that a work’s structure can only be determined when the writer has fully understood its purpose.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Poetic Closure (July 2009)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Poetic Closure (July 2009)
“Closure,” Stephen Dobyns remarks, “usually means putting something behind us.” But in a good poem, he argues, “it means something ahead.” Through close readings of poems by Billy Collins, Philip Larkin, Kay Ryan, W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic, Carol Ann Duffy and Miroslav Holub, Dobyns examines different types of poetic closure that, by suggesting other levels of meaning, can pull the reader back into the poem again.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Rimbaud (July 2012)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Rimbaud (July 2012)
Stephen Dobyns meditates on the nature and extent of Arthur Rimbaud’s influence on 20th century poetry. Examining Rimbaud’s biography, aesthetic theories, and poetry, Dobyns observes the genius and complexity of Rimbaud’s work and to this end offers a close reading of The Drunken Boat.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: The Poetic Development of James Wright (July 2013)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: The Poetic Development of James Wright (July 2013)
The lecture looks at the change in James Wright's poetry from the formal verse of The Green Wall and Saint Judas through the free verse poetry of The Branch Will Not Break, focusing on Wrights' early years in Martins Ferry, Ohio, through his time in the army, Kenyon College and his year in Vienna on a Fulbright where he discovered the poetry of Georg Trakl, which showed him a path his own poetry could take and led a few years later with his friendship with Robert Bly. Biographical information is drawn from letters and six interviews with Wright.
FREE! A 35th Anniversary Reading
FREE! A 35th Anniversary Reading
A compilation of readings by Larry Levis, Agha Shahid Ali, Tom Andrews, Renate Wood, and Steve Orlen. Note: this reading is free with any purchase. Simply add it to your cart along with your additional purchase(s).
FRIED, DAISY: All My Pretty Hates (January 2013)
FRIED, DAISY: All My Pretty Hates (January 2013)
Looking at work by Frederick Seidel, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Charles Bernstein, among others, Fried’s lecture focuses on the importance of paying attention to, and learning from, poetic aversion. What can our strong reactions tell us about who we are, what our prejudices are made of, and what are the failings and successes in our own work? Ultimately, Fried’s talk is about the limits of taste, the importance of prejudice, and learning to learn from what rubs us all wrong.
FRIED, DAISY: Why Burn: An Exhortation in Eight Proposals (July 2014)
FRIED, DAISY: Why Burn: An Exhortation in Eight Proposals (July 2014)
Jeers, rants, outbursts, abrasions, invective—Fried’s lecture investigates varieties and effects of “heat” in poems by Robert Bly, John Donne, Les Murray, and others, and in the fiction of Charles Dickens.
GROTZ, JENNIFER:
GROTZ, JENNIFER: "An Anxiety of Influence" for Girls (January 2009)
In his 1973 book The Anxiety of Influence, Harold Bloom posits that the young poet must assume poetic authority through willfully misreading, and then overthrowing, a precursor poet. In this lecture, Jennifer Grotz meditates on what in Bloom’s theory is helpful and what is harmful for a young writer; she draws on essays by Bloom and Eliot, and on poems by Plath, Graham, Moore, Milton, Bishop, Milosz, and Merwin, to offer a different understanding of what poetic authority is and how one might obtain it.
GROTZ, JENNIFER: On Poetry and Boxing (July 2012)
GROTZ, JENNIFER: On Poetry and Boxing (July 2012)
Jennifer Grotz investigates the centuries-old fascination of poets and fiction writers for the sport of boxing. Drawing from John Keats’s and Joyce Carol Oates’s writings on the “sweet science of boxing,“ Grotz suggests that understanding elements of the sport may illuminate concerns of the writer; both endeavors, she says, require the workings of the imagination, or Keats’s “Fancy”, in their preparation and execution.
HAXTON, BROOKS: Image and the Levels of Meaning (July 2012)
HAXTON, BROOKS: Image and the Levels of Meaning (July 2012)
Brooks Haxton considers the image as a vehicle of meaning as he traces the influence of early 20th century translations of Chinese and Japanese work on Western writers and readers. Haxton also draws upon the King James Bible and Imagist poets, including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and D.H. Lawrence, to explore potential allegorical, moral, and mystical aspects of an image’s meaning.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Disproportion: Excess in Poetry (January 1993)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Disproportion: Excess in Poetry (January 1993)
Tony Hoagland identifies and champions poetry which belongs neither to the camp of the well-made and conservative nor to the zany and subversive. He describes how this third type, often excessive and highly dramatic, may not know exactly “what it is,” but can praise and reflect the objective world while at the same time asserting the supremacy of the imagination. Looking at poems by Tess Gallagher, Horace, Susan Mitchell, Wallace Stevens and W.C. Williams, Hoagland argues that much can be gained from studying a poem which absolves its writer from the need “to perfect.”
HOAGLAND, TONY: Idiom, Our Funny Valentine (July 2010)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Idiom, Our Funny Valentine (July 2010)
Idiom, like vernacular and slang, can establish shared knowledge and thus intimacy with the reader. But when, Tony Hoagland asks, does the use of idiom “dumb things down”? Hoagland looks at examples from Yehuda Amichai, Ben Lerner, John Ashbery, and Heather McHugh to consider the benefits—and liabilities—of using idiom in poems.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Information, Layering, and the Composite Poem (July 2013)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Information, Layering, and the Composite Poem (July 2013)
Tony Hoagland describes the formal strategy of the "composite poem," a poem that alloys and amalgamates bits and bytes of the objective and the subjective worlds into a loose kind of composition. The composite poem is a speculative form that does not explain or over-mediate the connections between its parts -- it has a modernist heterogeneous kind of "dissheveledness" about the way it presents reality. Nonetheless, the composite poem must have a kind of internal rigorousness; it seeks to harmonically arrange its many tones and samplings, to organize it into a credible, believably disorganized yet persuasive form. Examples of the composite form are drawn from the work of Robert Hass, Spencer Reece, Anne Carson, and most especially Tomas Transtromer.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Structure: Housing and Transmission (July 2011)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Structure: Housing and Transmission (July 2011)
Comparing a poem to an automotive engine, Tony Hoagland argues that poems stay alive on the page by shifting gears; at such moments, Hoagland suggests, a poem can be enlarged or intensified within a single sentence. Through close readings of work by Jean Follain, Philip Larkin, Eavan Boland, Joseph Millar, and Anne Carson, Hoagland examines the organizational strategies that make such “gear-shifts” possible.
JONES, RODNEY: Poetic Language and Credibility:  The Poem that Does Not Seem to be a Poem (January 2012)
JONES, RODNEY: Poetic Language and Credibility: The Poem that Does Not Seem to be a Poem (January 2012)
Arguing that the best poems seem “but a moment’s thought,” Jones investigates how poets establish credibility through both consciously wrought technique and natural evocation of character. Readers want to sense that the voice in a poem is that of a real human being in an ordinary life; Jones examines how poets as dissimilar as Frank Bidart, Robert Creeley, Louise Gluck, Charles Wright, and James Wright work to integrate character and artifice.
JORDAN, A. VAN: The Suspension of Disbelief (July 2012)
JORDAN, A. VAN: The Suspension of Disbelief (July 2012)
In this lecture, A. Van Jordan meditates on Coleridge’s notion of the “willing suspension of disbelief” as it applies to modern poetry, prose narrative, and film. Jordan discusses the concept of poetic faith and the implicit contract between poet and reader requiring that a poem move toward a satisfying ending. By means of close readings of Martha Collins’ Blue Front, Laura Kasischke’s “Stolen Shoes,” and Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, Jordan considers some successful conclusions.
LEADER, MARY: Sestinas & Other Chances (July 2012)
LEADER, MARY: Sestinas & Other Chances (July 2012)
Through an examination of the sestina, Mary Leader’s class investigates the relationship between form and content in poetry. Focusing on poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Frank Bidart, Ezra Pound, and others, Leader meditates on themes which the sestina is particularly well-suited to suggest or to render.
LEVIS, LARRY: On Elegy:  Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island”  (January 1994)
LEVIS, LARRY: On Elegy: Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island” (January 1994)
Through a close reading of Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island,” the late Larry Levis reflects on the challenge which the elegaic form presents to a writer. Levis believes the dual purpose of the elegy-- to remember and to inter the dead-- can involve a poet, ambivalent about forsaking the beloved to seek a new object of affection, in an ethical dilemma. Levis looks at the effect of this complexity on Heaney’s poem and concludes that what matters in poetry, as in life, is passion.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: James Joyce: An Odyssey of Style (January 2012)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: James Joyce: An Odyssey of Style (January 2012)
“All of writing is stylistic extravagance,” asserts poet James Longenbach, “no matter how simple it may initially appear.” In his introduction to Joyce’s Ulysses, Longenbach identifies Joyce’s shift from direct realism to “linguistic extravagance” over the course of eighteen episodes. Through close readings of key passages, Longenbach explores the novel’s stylistic nature, asking: What makes us who we are, the DNA passed on to us or the language that encases us? Does character determine style, as is suggested by the earlier episodes, or, as the later episodes indicate, does style determine character?
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Poetic Amplitude (January 2009)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Poetic Amplitude (January 2009)
How do great works of verbal art incorporate language that might seem, in another context, to violate any familiar prescription for what makes writing good? In this lecture, James Longenbach examines how writers can use moments of flat or enervated language to thrilling, amplifying effect; he looks, for examples, at three of Shakespeare’s plays and at poems by Bishop, Eliot, Moore, Ashbery, Bidart, and Glück.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Excess of Poetry (July 2010)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Excess of Poetry (July 2010)
James Longenbach argues that excess is crucial to art, even to art that does not seem obviously excessive. Drawing on Keats’ idea of “fine excess,” Longenbach shows how Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” Pound’s Canto 74, and Dickinson’s “The vastest earthly Day” embody the tension between limit and excess, and enact the wish to exceed their own restraints.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Sound of Shakespeare Thinking (January 2010)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Sound of Shakespeare Thinking (January 2010)
James Longenbach examines how writers have represented the process of meditative thinking, as opposed to “finished thought.” Tracing this kind of representation to Shakespeare, in whose plays the “sound” of characters thinking is used to great dramatic effect, Longenbach draws, too, on contemporary examples from Virginia Woolf and Louise Glück.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Tone Poems (July 2009)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Tone Poems (July 2009)
James Longenbach considers how poetic series that are not governed by narrative or syntactical cohesion can still make convincing wholes. Through close readings of Pound’s “Villanelle, the Psychological Hour,” Eliot’s The Wasteland, and Susan Howe’s “Silence Wager Stories,” he shows how each of these poems uses tone to guide the reader through its disparate and open-ended sections.
MANNING, MAURICE: Fat Man's Misery, or, The Mind of the Poem (January 2014)
MANNING, MAURICE: Fat Man's Misery, or, The Mind of the Poem (January 2014)
Centering on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as well as other works, this lecture examines how “gaps”— what is not explicitly stated in a poem or a story—can have a profound impact on the reader’s experience, allowing him or her room to wonder and wander off the page into the mind of the work.
MANNING, MAURICE: Lyricism, Landscape, and the Inner Voice (January 2010)
MANNING, MAURICE: Lyricism, Landscape, and the Inner Voice (January 2010)
In this lecture, Maurice Manning explores the relationship of place to the constitution of a poetic self; the individual imagination, he argues, comes from the larger creativity of the natural world. Manning looks at poems by Pope, Coleridge, Dylan Thomas and Robert Penn Warren to consider how these poets return to, and re-imagine, the places that produced them.
MANNING, MAURICE: Nature and the Possibility of a Moral Imagination (July 2014)
MANNING, MAURICE: Nature and the Possibility of a Moral Imagination (July 2014)
What does Nature have to teach us in 21st century, and how can Nature instruct human imagination? Can our deep intimacy with Nature make us better artists? Manning’s lecture seeks answers through a discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the work of and the correspondence between Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.
MANNING, MAURICE: Place and the Composition of Poetic Self (January 2011)
MANNING, MAURICE: Place and the Composition of Poetic Self (January 2011)
In this lecture Manning examines the generative role a specific geography plays in composing a sense of poetic self. Through a study of the ways in which Coleridge’s “Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement," Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill," and Robert Penn Warren's "The Ballad of Billie Potts” render place on the page, Manning explores how these poets use tone, syntax, and form to simultaneously render self.
MANNING, MAURICE: The Uses of Nostalgia (January 2012)
MANNING, MAURICE: The Uses of Nostalgia (January 2012)
Poet Maurice Manning questions whether the idea of nostalgia might offer a powerful perspective, rather than an aesthetic shortcoming. Wordsworth’s “Prelude” suggests that nostalgic moments are not “sentimental” but are a means of recognizing the wellspring of a speaker’s poetic vision. Using Emerson’s essay “Nature” as a guide, Manning considers the idea of nostalgia in Frost’s “Going for Water,” and Vachel Lindsay’s “Nancy Hanks, Mother of Abraham Lincoln.”
McHUGH, HEATHER: Composition as Conversation (July 2013)
McHUGH, HEATHER: Composition as Conversation (July 2013)
Heather McHugh does some etymological turns on the turns of verse—coming out in conversation with company and solitude, the controversial and the universal, the convertible and the converse. As always, her eye is on ambiguous and polyguous constructions of poetry; this time she reads poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Alan Dugan, Frederick Seidel, Shirley Kaufman, and others.
McHUGH, HEATHER: Mirrors and Misgivings (July 2000)
McHUGH, HEATHER: Mirrors and Misgivings (July 2000)
In this lecture, Heather McHugh reconsiders the idea that a work of art mirrors the world. Through close readings of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Insomnia,” Louise Bogan’s “Man Alone,” Robert Graves’ “The Face in the Mirror,” Gustaf Sobin’s “Out of the Identity,” and W.B. Yeats’ “The Cat and the Moon,” McHugh examines how poems create multiple readings and “break out of the mirror’s stronghold.” The best work of any artist, argues McHugh, is that of “discovery and not recapitulation, motivated by curiosity, not foreknowledge.”
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Garden Path: Poems by Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P'o (July 2011)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Garden Path: Poems by Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P'o (July 2011)
In this lecture, Heather McHugh examines the work of two largely unknown poets, Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P’o. McHugh conducts close readings of a range of poems by both writers and considers the ghost meanings, or multiple meanings, of the words in the poems; she suggests that this multiplicity allows the poems to work like “garden paths,” taking readers in unexpected directions.
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Stuff of Language as Packed by Wallace Stevens (July 2009)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Stuff of Language as Packed by Wallace Stevens (July 2009)
Heather McHugh reflects on the metaphor of a poem as a container, and on the ways such a vehicle can convey something larger than itself. Drawing on prose by Wittgenstein and on poems by William Dickey and Rilke, McHugh devotes the majority of her lecture to Wallace Stevens; she explores how poems such as “Poetry is a Destructive Force,” “Jumbo,” “Imago,” and “The Immense Dew of Florida” are designed to be exceeded by what they contain.
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Unwary Angel: Inquiry and Empathy (July 2014)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Unwary Angel: Inquiry and Empathy (July 2014)
“The role of art,” says faculty member Heather McHugh, “is to remind a mind that thinks it has made itself up.” Mc Hugh’s lecture takes on inquiry and empathy—and inquiry as empathy--through discussions of the poetry of Miroslav Holub, the writings of physicist Richard Feynman, and others. The two video clips referenced in this talk may be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37MNE8tOBG4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XGds2GAvGQ.
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Convention and Mysticism: Dickinson, Hardy, and Williams (January 2012)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Convention and Mysticism: Dickinson, Hardy, and Williams (January 2012)
“How do we recognize individual talent if not against the backdrop of convention?” asks poet, novelist, and memoirist Alan Shapiro. Using T. S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” as a framework for his discussion, Shapiro considers the work of leading modernists who were deeply engaged with literary tradition and their individual talents. Among the works examined: Emily Dickinson, Poem 591; Thomas Hardy, “The Oxen”; and William Carlos Williams, “Portrait of a Lady.”
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Technique of Empathy: Free Indirect Style (January 2011)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Technique of Empathy: Free Indirect Style (January 2011)
Alan Shapiro characterizes Free Indirect Style as one which enables writers to move between intimacy and distance in narration. Drawing on close readings of “The Mill” by E.A. Robinson, “Donahue’s Sister” and “Slow Waker” by Thom Gunn, and “A Fantasy” by Louise Glück, he looks at how that these poems intertwine the narrative voice with contrasting perspectives of characters within the poem. Shapiro concludes that Free Indirect Style urges us “to consider being someone else” while at the same time suggesting the limitations of empathic understanding.
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Translation as Linguistic Hospitality (July 2009)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Translation as Linguistic Hospitality (July 2009)
“If failure and betrayal are inevitable” in translation, Alan Shapiro asks, “how do we fail and betray in interesting and illuminating ways?” Shapiro draws on his own experiences translating The Oresteia, as well as on translations of that work by Robert Browning and Robert Fagles, to explore the challenges facing any translator and to advocate the idea of hospitality as a productive way to think about translation.
SZYBIST, MARY: Poetic Argument: Strategic Concessions (July 2011)
SZYBIST, MARY: Poetic Argument: Strategic Concessions (July 2011)
Mary Szybist considers one common rhetorical tool poets use to construct their arguments: the concession. To concede something in a poem is a move toward vulnerability, and it is a risk, Szybist argues, which can have enormous pay-off. Incorporating examples from Marianne Moore, Linda Gregg, David Lehman, Harryette Mullen, Sappho, and Shakespeare, Szybist examines ways in which poets have successfully used concessions to reach, persuade, and move their readers.
SZYBIST, MARY: There Interposed a ____: A Few Considerations of Poetic Drama (July 2013)
SZYBIST, MARY: There Interposed a ____: A Few Considerations of Poetic Drama (July 2013)
This talk considers the ways that very different poems set up one basic dramatic occasion: a moment when something comes between the speaker and his or her destination or desire. As we track this geometry, we will take note of its remarkable flexibility in poems by Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, William Stafford, Langston Hughes, William Wordsworth, and the medieval Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym
TOBIN, DAN: John Donne at the Odeon (July 2014)
TOBIN, DAN: John Donne at the Odeon (July 2014)
Associative, architectural, sexy, saintly, and immoderately wrought, John Donne’s poetry epitomizes the need to embody conflicting temperaments in the astonishing vital contraption that would be a poem. Tobin’s lecture focuses on how Donne’s creative action shapes two of his great poems, “The Canonization” and “Holy Sonnet 14.”
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Double Double (July 2009)
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Double Double (July 2009)
Ellen Bryant Voigt, expanding on her January 2009 class, examines what she calls “empirical irony,” “paradoxical doubling” based on factual evidence. Through close readings of poems by Robert Frost and Louise Glück, she considers how irony can enable writers to say two things at the same time, “apparently contradictory, both true.” Voigt makes crucial the distinction between ironic style, which seeks to conceal deep feeling, and irony, which discloses it, and whose subtext is “less bitterness than heartbreak.”
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Revision, Inspiration, and the Draft Process:  Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” (January 1996)
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Revision, Inspiration, and the Draft Process: Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” (January 1996)
Ellen Bryant Voigt’s lecture on revision challenges the familiar notion of how a poem comes to be: first inspiration, then “work.” Instead, Voigt suggests that “the product of work itself” can provide stimulus and instruction. Concentrating on Elizabeth Bishop’s six-month drafting process of “One Art” during which early repetitions gradually evolved into her masterful villanelle, Voigt demonstrates that “Vision may be the fruit of technique, not only its precursor.”
VOISINE, CONNIE: What is big as an elephant but weighs nothing at all?* or The Riddle in the Lyric Poem (January 2013)
VOISINE, CONNIE: What is big as an elephant but weighs nothing at all?* or The Riddle in the Lyric Poem (January 2013)
Northrup Frye calls the riddle “essentially a charm in reverse . . . the revolt of the intelligence against the hypnotic power of commanding words.” This struggle, between mystery and sense, is explored in Voisine’s lecture, using the riddle poem as a launching point. In considering how we respond to a good riddle—the epiphanic moment, the flash of comprehension, the way we are moved beyond the immediate, physical world—Voisine explores the ways in which lyric poems are riddles of a sort. *The shadow of the elephant.
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: How the Line Means in Free Verse (July 2012)
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: How the Line Means in Free Verse (July 2012)
Focusing on the line as a unit of sound and a rhythmic shape as well as a communicator of content, AlanWilliamson considers two traditions that make particularly radical breaks with the English pentameter line: the long line of Whitman, Jeffers, and Ginsberg and the short line of William Carols Williams.
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: Iambic Pentameter (July 1998)
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: Iambic Pentameter (July 1998)
Exploring the blank verse of MacBeth and the sprung rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” Alan Williamson investigates the relationship between energetic speech, musical feeling, and iambic pentameter. Williams discusses how Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean blank verse drama The Changeling influenced T.S. Eliot’s “Gerontion,” and goes on to consider how the ghost of iambic pentameter can invite the ear to seek musical patterns which create clarity.
WILNER, ELEANOR: Getting Out of the Way, or How Not to Stand in Your Own Light (January 2013)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Getting Out of the Way, or How Not to Stand in Your Own Light (January 2013)
Wilner’s lecture considers how and why we get in our own way as imaginative writers. She offers some models and a variety of strategies for getting out of the way and enabling the creative imagination—of which Lu Chi said in Wen Fu, his treatise on the art of writing: The truth of the thing lies inside us, but no power on earth can force it; and Louise Glück, writing 18 centuries later: The dream of art is not to assert what is already known but to illuminate what has been hidden, and the path to the hidden is not inscribed by will. How then to invoke what will not be commanded?
WILNER, ELEANOR: Making Waves (January 2014)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Making Waves (January 2014)
Wilner’s lecture considers what wave-watching can tell us about the powers of poetry and the shaping of story, what the physics of wave motion can tell us about the action of imagination, and how what moves us in a poem is connected to how it moves, and whose boat it rocks. Texts discussed include “Saturday, Early April” by William Kloefkorn, Larry Levis’s “Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage,” and Wallace Stevens’s “The Idea of Order at Key West.”
WILNER, ELEANOR: Playing the Changes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (January 1998)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Playing the Changes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (January 1998)
Eleanor Wilner offers close readings of several of Ovid’s stories and demonstrates that the poet undergoes a transformation during the act of writing. She contends that poetry is not impersonal, as T. S. Eliot asserted, but suggests that the action of a poet’s imagination is “transpersonal.” Wilner discusses the ways in which Ovid’s figures and stories have been renewed by a virtually endless stream of artists and goes on to focus on moments of transfiguration in the work of Gerald Stern, Thom Gunn, Jorie Graham, and others.
WILNER, ELEANOR: The Revolving Door of the Imagination (January 2009)
WILNER, ELEANOR: The Revolving Door of the Imagination (January 2009)
“Poetry at its most powerful,” Eleanor Wilner argues, allows us to “shift away” from what we expect to see; she suggests that such shifts can occur when the speaker finds ways to move “out of the shallows of the ego” and into a deeper kind of consciousness. Wilner examines poems by Richard Wilbur, Theodore Roethke, Radcliffe Squires and Gerald Stern to locate such moments of transformation— and consider the craft strategies that make them possible.
YOUN, MONICA: Nora/Laura (January 2014)
YOUN, MONICA: Nora/Laura (January 2014)
This lecture begins by describing a necklace James Joyce commissioned for his wife, Nora Barnacle, in 1909. Youn presents a theory of how the necklace relates to Joyce’s ideas about the Petrarchan sonnet, explores the form’s “hangover effect,” and presents a range of classical and contemporary examples, including works by Milton, Yeats, Rita Dove, and Bernadette Mayer.
YOUNG, C. DALE: An Examination of Two Poems by Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara (July 2010)
YOUNG, C. DALE: An Examination of Two Poems by Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara (July 2010)
What do we mean when we describe a novel or poem as accessible? C. Dale Young looks at Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, “Ave Maria” by Frank O’Hara, and “One Train May Hide Another” by Kenneth Koch to contest the idea that Conrad, O’Hara, and Koch are simple writers. Instead, Young explores how these writers use “veils of accessibility” to coax the reader past their apparently easy surfaces.

Digital Downloads from the July 2014 Residency

BAXTER, CHARLES: Fugitive Subjectivity (July 2014)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Fugitive Subjectivity (July 2014)
What happens within a story when there may be no one to whom a story can be told, or the story itself is somehow unspeakable? Baxter explores “fugitive subjectivity”—subjectivity without an outlet—in the toxic narratives that result, focusing on John Cheever’s “The Country Husband.”
FRIED, DAISY: Why Burn: An Exhortation in Eight Proposals (July 2014)
FRIED, DAISY: Why Burn: An Exhortation in Eight Proposals (July 2014)
Jeers, rants, outbursts, abrasions, invective—Fried’s lecture investigates varieties and effects of “heat” in poems by Robert Bly, John Donne, Les Murray, and others, and in the fiction of Charles Dickens.
GROFF, LAUREN: Horror Vacui: On Gaps, Spaces, and Silences (July 2014)
GROFF, LAUREN: Horror Vacui: On Gaps, Spaces, and Silences (July 2014)
The gaps in a text may be empty of words, but full of resonance, the vacuum filled instantly by the reader’s swift comprehension. Groff’s lecture questions and explores varieties of white space in a text—pauses, rests, caesurae, silences—in works by Perec, Levi, Duras, Beckett, and others.
MANNING, MAURICE: Nature and the Possibility of a Moral Imagination (July 2014)
MANNING, MAURICE: Nature and the Possibility of a Moral Imagination (July 2014)
What does Nature have to teach us in 21st century, and how can Nature instruct human imagination? Can our deep intimacy with Nature make us better artists? Manning’s lecture seeks answers through a discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the work of and the correspondence between Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Unwary Angel: Inquiry and Empathy (July 2014)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Unwary Angel: Inquiry and Empathy (July 2014)
“The role of art,” says faculty member Heather McHugh, “is to remind a mind that thinks it has made itself up.” Mc Hugh’s lecture takes on inquiry and empathy—and inquiry as empathy--through discussions of the poetry of Miroslav Holub, the writings of physicist Richard Feynman, and others. The two video clips referenced in this talk may be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37MNE8tOBG4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XGds2GAvGQ.
SPARK, DEBRA: Surprise Me (July 2014)
SPARK, DEBRA: Surprise Me (July 2014)
How do we think of surprise in fiction? As an antidote to boredom, a gift of the subconscious, or welcome strangeness? Spark’s lecture considers how even the quotidian can shock us through plot twists, formal invention, character revelation, or language that distills the nature of the real.
STONE, SARAH: Strategic Opacity (July 2014)
STONE, SARAH: Strategic Opacity (July 2014)
An imaginative work needs to embody, rather than explain, its world and its people. Stephen Greenblatt uses the term “Strategic Opacity” in discussing Shakespeare’s approach to character motivation. Stone adopts this idea as her jumping-off point to explore character and plot mysteries in Jamaica Kinkaid’s At the Bottom of the River, Joy Williams’ The Quick and the Dead, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
TOBIN, DAN: John Donne at the Odeon (July 2014)
TOBIN, DAN: John Donne at the Odeon (July 2014)
Associative, architectural, sexy, saintly, and immoderately wrought, John Donne’s poetry epitomizes the need to embody conflicting temperaments in the astonishing vital contraption that would be a poem. Tobin’s lecture focuses on how Donne’s creative action shapes two of his great poems, “The Canonization” and “Holy Sonnet 14.”

 

Digital Downloads from the January 2014 Residency

  MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
MIXING IT UP (Panel): Marianne Boruch, Karen Brennan, Jeremy Gavron, Robin Romm, Alan Shapiro, David Shields (January 2014)
What prompts a poet to write fiction, or poets/fiction writers to undertake a memoir? Is the impulse toward “another genre” purely a formal choice, or is it made necessary by the material to be served? Are valuable lessons brought back to one’s “primary” genre? Or, will some of us spend our writing lives happily alternating among poems, novels, stories, essays, memoir and admixtures that defy taxonomy? Six faculty members report from own their experiences crossing the genre divide.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Let Us Consider the Kitchen: The User's Guide to Lists, Maps, and Inventories (January 2014)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Let Us Consider the Kitchen: The User's Guide to Lists, Maps, and Inventories (January 2014)
Bakopoulos’s discussion class examines the uses of lists and litanies in poetry and prose as a way to heighten momentum and illuminate syntax. Among the texts discussed are William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow and works by Tillie Olsen, Susan Minot, and Stuart Dybek.
GROSSMAN, JUDITH: Instead of a Muse: A Genealogy for Stories (January 2014)
GROSSMAN, JUDITH: Instead of a Muse: A Genealogy for Stories (January 2014)
Elements of the folktale persist throughout the transformations of the modern story. Grossman’s lecture investigates how the Hero/Heroine, the Enemy and the Ally, the Treasure, the loss of a parent or exile from home, and the factor of lucky work like traditional post-and-beam in narrative, looking at the Grimm Brothers’ “The Devil with Three Golden Hairs,” E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Sandman,” Samuel Beckett’s “First Love,” and stories by Alice Munro.
HAYNES, DAVID: Would You Like to See My Cat Mammy? Looking at Other People and their Stuff (January 2014)
HAYNES, DAVID: Would You Like to See My Cat Mammy? Looking at Other People and their Stuff (January 2014)
Are you a white person who is just dying to include people of color in your next novel? Comfortably middle class and just fascinated as all get out with those quirky folks down at the trailer park? Does this course description make you a little bit queasy? Then this is the class for you! Haynes’s discussion class looks at how shifting lenses of creator/narrator/reader/viewer shape the development of and interpretation of cultural material in creative works. Among the texts discussed are works by Allan Gurganus’s White People, Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” and David Foster Wallace’s “Ticket to the Fair.”
HRIBAL, C.J.: Go Little Book: Obsession in General and the Novella in Particular (January 2014)
HRIBAL, C.J.: Go Little Book: Obsession in General and the Novella in Particular (January 2014)
As writers, we often worry about not repeating ourselves, yet many wonderful writers return repeatedly to the same essential material. Hribal’s lecture extols the virtues of obsession, and offers a paean to the novella, a narrative form which allows writers to embody their inner obsessive. Among those texts discussed are Andre Dubus’s “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” and Jane Smiley’s “Ordinary Love” and “The Age of Grief.”
MANNING, MAURICE: Fat Man's Misery, or, The Mind of the Poem (January 2014)
MANNING, MAURICE: Fat Man's Misery, or, The Mind of the Poem (January 2014)
Centering on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as well as other works, this lecture examines how “gaps”— what is not explicitly stated in a poem or a story—can have a profound impact on the reader’s experience, allowing him or her room to wonder and wander off the page into the mind of the work.
McILVOY, KEVIN: The Equilibrist and The Dynamist (January 2014)
McILVOY, KEVIN: The Equilibrist and The Dynamist (January 2014)
This lecture presents ways in which writers can present the elements of their work that move it toward "dynamic balance" (verging on achieving balance and falling out of balance in the very same moment), while not moving it away from equilibrium. Through close consideration of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and C.D. Wright's Deepstep Come Shining, the lecture addresses concepts of "the wolf tone," "surroundability and directionality," and the "altered instruments" of poetic syntax and story structure.
ROMM, ROBIN: Great Neurotics (January 2014)
ROMM, ROBIN: Great Neurotics (January 2014)
What makes a neurotic narrator so compelling, so full of life for so many writers (and readers)? Romm’s lecture explains the craft implications of hyper-vigilance, obsessiveness, and overthinking, and explores how these qualities make for excellent prose in works such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding, and others.
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Now You See It, Now You Don't: A Glimpse into the Locked Box (January 2014)
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Now You See It, Now You Don't: A Glimpse into the Locked Box (January 2014)
This two-hour discussion class led by Megan Staffel explores what is gained when the writer shows the protagonist having a sublime experience in the early pages of a novel. Not only does it allow the reader insight into the character’s secret ambition, but it establishes the reader’s sympathy with the character’s often risky or impossible purpose: to return to the sublime that was so fleetingly achieved.
WILNER, ELEANOR: Making Waves (January 2014)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Making Waves (January 2014)
Wilner’s lecture considers what wave-watching can tell us about the powers of poetry and the shaping of story, what the physics of wave motion can tell us about the action of imagination, and how what moves us in a poem is connected to how it moves, and whose boat it rocks. Texts discussed include “Saturday, Early April” by William Kloefkorn, Larry Levis’s “Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage,” and Wallace Stevens’s “The Idea of Order at Key West.”
YOUN, MONICA: Nora/Laura (January 2014)
YOUN, MONICA: Nora/Laura (January 2014)
This lecture begins by describing a necklace James Joyce commissioned for his wife, Nora Barnacle, in 1909. Youn presents a theory of how the necklace relates to Joyce’s ideas about the Petrarchan sonnet, explores the form’s “hangover effect,” and presents a range of classical and contemporary examples, including works by Milton, Yeats, Rita Dove, and Bernadette Mayer.

Digital Downloads from the July 2013 Residency

BAXTER, CHARLES: Dramatic Interventions: The Request Moment (July 2013)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Dramatic Interventions: The Request Moment (July 2013)
Dramatic situations are often set into motion when one character makes a request of another; poems, too, may acquire a certain energy from requests made within them. These requests tell us something about the social group in which they occur, and they tell us about the obligations one character may have for another. Examples are offered from Shakespeare, A. E. Housman, Shirley Jackson, Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and others.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Having Gravity and Having Weight: On Meaning in Fiction (July 2013)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Having Gravity and Having Weight: On Meaning in Fiction (July 2013)
The lecture muses on meaning, focusing on rarely discussed aspects of craft. Texts referred to include Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and Sherwood Anderson's "Death in the Woods."
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: The Poetic Development of James Wright (July 2013)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: The Poetic Development of James Wright (July 2013)
The lecture looks at the change in James Wright's poetry from the formal verse of The Green Wall and Saint Judas through the free verse poetry of The Branch Will Not Break, focusing on Wrights' early years in Martins Ferry, Ohio, through his time in the army, Kenyon College and his year in Vienna on a Fulbright where he discovered the poetry of Georg Trakl, which showed him a path his own poetry could take and led a few years later with his friendship with Robert Bly. Biographical information is drawn from letters and six interviews with Wright.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Information, Layering, and the Composite Poem (July 2013)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Information, Layering, and the Composite Poem (July 2013)
Tony Hoagland describes the formal strategy of the "composite poem," a poem that alloys and amalgamates bits and bytes of the objective and the subjective worlds into a loose kind of composition. The composite poem is a speculative form that does not explain or over-mediate the connections between its parts -- it has a modernist heterogeneous kind of "dissheveledness" about the way it presents reality. Nonetheless, the composite poem must have a kind of internal rigorousness; it seeks to harmonically arrange its many tones and samplings, to organize it into a credible, believably disorganized yet persuasive form. Examples of the composite form are drawn from the work of Robert Hass, Spencer Reece, Anne Carson, and most especially Tomas Transtromer.
HORROCKS, CAITLIN: When Bad Stories Go Good (July 2013)
HORROCKS, CAITLIN: When Bad Stories Go Good (July 2013)
Caitlin Horrocks talks about stories that wear their “bad ideas” proudly, requiring clichés to be redeemed, craft commandments to be broken, challenging or bizarre subjects to be tackled. Readers recognize the possibility of disaster in these stories, and cheer when the author emerges unscathed. Stories by Todd James Pierce, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Suan Sontag, and “Chris Drangle are examined for techniques or approaches that help risky stories succeed.
McHUGH, HEATHER: Composition as Conversation (July 2013)
McHUGH, HEATHER: Composition as Conversation (July 2013)
Heather McHugh does some etymological turns on the turns of verse—coming out in conversation with company and solitude, the controversial and the universal, the convertible and the converse. As always, her eye is on ambiguous and polyguous constructions of poetry; this time she reads poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Alan Dugan, Frederick Seidel, Shirley Kaufman, and others.
ORNER, PETER: Reading is Experience (July 2013)
ORNER, PETER: Reading is Experience (July 2013)
Peter Orner examines the work of the masterful, and vastly under-appreciated, English novelist, Henry Green. By zeroing in on two of Green's most famous and innovative novels, Loving and Party Going, Orner discusses technical and emotional aspects of Green's unusual and unique style, and emphasizes that the key to Green's work is his uncanny ability to see and listen to his characters. As Eudora Welty wrote in 1970, "The intelligence, the blazing gifts of imagery, dialogue, construction, and form, the power to feel both what can and what can never be said, give Henry Green's work an intensity greater...than any writer of imaginative fiction today."
SPARK, DEBRA: Raiding the Larder: Research in Fact-Based Fiction (July 2013)
SPARK, DEBRA: Raiding the Larder: Research in Fact-Based Fiction (July 2013)
Combining her own interviews with Charles Baxter, David Bezmozgia, Lily King, and Jim Shepard with online and print interviews with Kate Atkinson, Colum McCann and William Maxwell, Debra Spark discusses how contemporary writers use research to inspire, authenticate and correct their narratives. While always emphasizing that research is a means to a fictive end, not a goal in itself, she explores the artistic and personal pleasures of going to the library, interviewing, traveling, and even Googling obsessively.
SZYBIST, MARY: There Interposed a ____: A Few Considerations of Poetic Drama (July 2013)
SZYBIST, MARY: There Interposed a ____: A Few Considerations of Poetic Drama (July 2013)
This talk considers the ways that very different poems set up one basic dramatic occasion: a moment when something comes between the speaker and his or her destination or desire. As we track this geometry, we will take note of its remarkable flexibility in poems by Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, William Stafford, Langston Hughes, William Wordsworth, and the medieval Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym
TURCHI, PETER: Power Play (July 2013)
TURCHI, PETER: Power Play (July 2013)
Peter Turchi discusses different forms of power in fiction, and the possibilities made available when power shifts among three or more characters. His examples include Alice Munro's "Royal Beatings," Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and Katherine Anne Porter’s “Noon Wine.”

Digital Downloads from the January 2013 Residency

ALLBERY, DEBRA: Learning to Read (January 2013)
ALLBERY, DEBRA: Learning to Read (January 2013)
“One cannot read a book,” Nabokov wrote, “one can only reread it.” Delivered as the opening talk of the January 2013 residency, this meditation on rereading explores how our ongoing and evolving relationships with signal texts mirror the development and re-vision of individual and cultural aesthetics.
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Rainbows for All God's Children (& Other Horror Stories) (January 2013)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Rainbows for All God's Children (& Other Horror Stories) (January 2013)
A meditation on the challenges of narrative momentum in prose and poetry, this lecture attempts to use lessons from the horror genre and apply them to writing that is not always plot-driven. Among the stories discussed are Z.Z. Packer’s “Brownies,” Stuart Dybek’s “Paper Lanterns,” and “Dance in America” by Lorrie Moore.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Three Blakes (January 2013)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Three Blakes (January 2013)
To read Blake or to stare into his engravings and paintings is to be taken back to the source of what we do. Focusing on Songs of Innocence and Experience, Boruch’s lecture presents a triptych of Blakes, as she investigates his brilliant, quirky, often heroic way with image as artist and poet—as well as “the sound of it, song, in our time and his,” which she explores with the bravura accompaniment of William Bolcom’s settings of Blake’s work.
FRIED, DAISY: All My Pretty Hates (January 2013)
FRIED, DAISY: All My Pretty Hates (January 2013)
Looking at work by Frederick Seidel, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Charles Bernstein, among others, Fried’s lecture focuses on the importance of paying attention to, and learning from, poetic aversion. What can our strong reactions tell us about who we are, what our prejudices are made of, and what are the failings and successes in our own work? Ultimately, Fried’s talk is about the limits of taste, the importance of prejudice, and learning to learn from what rubs us all wrong.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Focalization (January 2013)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Focalization (January 2013)
The tensions of looking and being looked at are essential in all narrative. What asks to be focused upon? What resists focalization? At what moment does something come into focus, and at what critical moment does something elude focus? For some writers, a significant breakthrough occurs when they move past their first assumptions about “looking” behaviors. McIlvoy’s lecture concentrates primarily on Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), specifically to the editions that include the “Dunnett Landing” stories.
ROMM, ROBIN: The Unsparing Gaze (January 2013)
ROMM, ROBIN: The Unsparing Gaze (January 2013)
Romm’s lecture discusses two authors who use “the unsparing gaze” toward very different ends. Edward St. Aubyn’s tragic and autobiographical “Patrick Melrose Novels” explore how childhood incest wreaks havoc on a psyche. Alison Lurie’s comic social satire “The War Between the Tates” skewers gender roles and marriage. Both authors, Romm observes, “make the most of discomfort, an excellent aim for any artist.”
SMITH, DOMINIC: The Mystery of Personality: Paradox, Consistency, and the Limits of Psychology in Creating Compelling Fictional Characters (January 2013)
SMITH, DOMINIC: The Mystery of Personality: Paradox, Consistency, and the Limits of Psychology in Creating Compelling Fictional Characters (January 2013)
When Flannery O’Connor said, “A story always involves, in a dramatic way, the mystery of personality,” she highlighted a key tension for the literary fiction writer—how to create characters who are both consistent and paradoxical. While the psychologist might be interested in understanding and categorizing the tangled web of personality, the fiction writer is primarily interested in revealing it. And as O’Connor reminds us, that revelation must happen in a dramatic way. Smith’s lecture explores our cultural understanding of personality, how it impedes and/or aids our explorations on the page, and some practical ways we might harness personality as an inherently dramatic “vehicle.”
VOISINE, CONNIE: What is big as an elephant but weighs nothing at all?* or The Riddle in the Lyric Poem (January 2013)
VOISINE, CONNIE: What is big as an elephant but weighs nothing at all?* or The Riddle in the Lyric Poem (January 2013)
Northrup Frye calls the riddle “essentially a charm in reverse . . . the revolt of the intelligence against the hypnotic power of commanding words.” This struggle, between mystery and sense, is explored in Voisine’s lecture, using the riddle poem as a launching point. In considering how we respond to a good riddle—the epiphanic moment, the flash of comprehension, the way we are moved beyond the immediate, physical world—Voisine explores the ways in which lyric poems are riddles of a sort. *The shadow of the elephant.
WILNER, ELEANOR: Getting Out of the Way, or How Not to Stand in Your Own Light (January 2013)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Getting Out of the Way, or How Not to Stand in Your Own Light (January 2013)
Wilner’s lecture considers how and why we get in our own way as imaginative writers. She offers some models and a variety of strategies for getting out of the way and enabling the creative imagination—of which Lu Chi said in Wen Fu, his treatise on the art of writing: The truth of the thing lies inside us, but no power on earth can force it; and Louise Glück, writing 18 centuries later: The dream of art is not to assert what is already known but to illuminate what has been hidden, and the path to the hidden is not inscribed by will. How then to invoke what will not be commanded?

Digital Downloads from the July 2012 Residency

CALVOCORESSI, GABRIELLE: The Beams of Our House(s) Are Cedar(s): Erotic Specificity in the Song of Songs (July 2012)
CALVOCORESSI, GABRIELLE: The Beams of Our House(s) Are Cedar(s): Erotic Specificity in the Song of Songs (July 2012)
Gabrielle Calvocoressi leads a discussion on specificity in the Song of Songs, focusing on how use of detail creates narrative clarity and also deepens mystery. The class examines the language used to describe intense physical love and highlights the ways in which linguistic choices radically affect understanding of content.
CASTELLANI, CHRISTOPHER: Objective Correlative (July 2012)
CASTELLANI, CHRISTOPHER: Objective Correlative (July 2012)
Christopher Castellani examines the usefulness of T.S. Eliot’s concept of the objective correlative for the fiction writer. Through a close reading of Peter Cameron’s novel Coral Glynn and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Castellani explores the power of the objective correlative to evoke strong emotion in the reader, as well as to seamlessly introduce back-story and necessary information into a narrative.
COHEN, ROBERT:
COHEN, ROBERT: "Refer Madness": Writing in an Age of Allusion (July 2012)
In this lecture, Robert Cohen considers the dilemma faced by contemporary fiction writers seeking to create work not reliant on allusion or reference. Using as a jumping-off point Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Wish to be a Red Indian,” Cohen discusses reference and allusion in Joyce’s Dubliners, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and William Gaddis’s The Recognitions. Cohen demonstrates how difficult it is for contemporary writers to avoid these stratagems, but argues that therein lies opportunity for new kinds of creativity.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Rimbaud (July 2012)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Rimbaud (July 2012)
Stephen Dobyns meditates on the nature and extent of Arthur Rimbaud’s influence on 20th century poetry. Examining Rimbaud’s biography, aesthetic theories, and poetry, Dobyns observes the genius and complexity of Rimbaud’s work and to this end offers a close reading of The Drunken Boat.
GAVRON, JEREMY: In Praise of Omission (July 2012)
GAVRON, JEREMY: In Praise of Omission (July 2012)
In this class, Jeremy Gavron considers the question of how much information to include in a work of fiction, looking at choices made by several contemporary writers. Gavron compares the richness of the opening pages of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections to the relative sparseness of Amoz Oz’s The Same Sea and Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room and pays particular attention to how each writer subtly varies his approach.
GROTZ, JENNIFER: On Poetry and Boxing (July 2012)
GROTZ, JENNIFER: On Poetry and Boxing (July 2012)
Jennifer Grotz investigates the centuries-old fascination of poets and fiction writers for the sport of boxing. Drawing from John Keats’s and Joyce Carol Oates’s writings on the “sweet science of boxing,“ Grotz suggests that understanding elements of the sport may illuminate concerns of the writer; both endeavors, she says, require the workings of the imagination, or Keats’s “Fancy”, in their preparation and execution.
HAXTON, BROOKS: Image and the Levels of Meaning (July 2012)
HAXTON, BROOKS: Image and the Levels of Meaning (July 2012)
Brooks Haxton considers the image as a vehicle of meaning as he traces the influence of early 20th century translations of Chinese and Japanese work on Western writers and readers. Haxton also draws upon the King James Bible and Imagist poets, including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and D.H. Lawrence, to explore potential allegorical, moral, and mystical aspects of an image’s meaning.
HAYNES, DAVID: Novels from the Ground Up (July 2012)
HAYNES, DAVID: Novels from the Ground Up (July 2012)
In this class, David Haynes examines some of the formal aspects of the novel. Using Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson before Dying as a blueprint for long works of fiction, Haynes identifies what is needed to start a novel’s engine and what’s needed to maintain narrative momentum. Haynes gives special attention to the ways in which a novel’s opening establishes its terms and shape.
JORDAN, A. VAN: The Suspension of Disbelief (July 2012)
JORDAN, A. VAN: The Suspension of Disbelief (July 2012)
In this lecture, A. Van Jordan meditates on Coleridge’s notion of the “willing suspension of disbelief” as it applies to modern poetry, prose narrative, and film. Jordan discusses the concept of poetic faith and the implicit contract between poet and reader requiring that a poem move toward a satisfying ending. By means of close readings of Martha Collins’ Blue Front, Laura Kasischke’s “Stolen Shoes,” and Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, Jordan considers some successful conclusions.
LEADER, MARY: Sestinas & Other Chances (July 2012)
LEADER, MARY: Sestinas & Other Chances (July 2012)
Through an examination of the sestina, Mary Leader’s class investigates the relationship between form and content in poetry. Focusing on poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Frank Bidart, Ezra Pound, and others, Leader meditates on themes which the sestina is particularly well-suited to suggest or to render.
OHLIN, ALIX: Misfits and Malfeasance: The Criminal Act in Fiction (July 2012)
OHLIN, ALIX: Misfits and Malfeasance: The Criminal Act in Fiction (July 2012)
In this class, Alix Ohlin considers stylistic approaches to the portrayal of criminal acts in fiction. Looking at works by Raymond Chandler, Carson McCullers, and Alice Munro, Ohlin explores how charged moments of criminality can shift tone and texture. Ohlin argues that acts of violence and betrayal, often rendered lyrically, are integral not only to plot development, but also to successful, nuanced characterization.
SPARK, DEBRA: That's Funny (July 2012)
SPARK, DEBRA: That's Funny (July 2012)
In this lecture, Debra Spark questions how humor functions in contemporary fiction. Comparing the novels Personal Days by Ed Parks and Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, Spark looks at the comedic qualities of each and identifies the means by which the virtues of gratitude and humility are conveyed to readers. Spark’s discussion also makes mention of fictional moments by Etgar Keret, Shalom Auslander, and Maggie Shipstead which lead to important considerations of characterization, precise observation, truth-telling, and emotional power.
STONE, SARAH: The Pleasures of Hell (July 2012)
STONE, SARAH: The Pleasures of Hell (July 2012)
Sarah Stone explores aesthetic choices that make depictions of “hell” in literature pleasurable. Referring to Dante’s Inferno, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, and Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black, Stone demonstrates ways in which writers entice readers to enjoy morally disturbing and painful matters.
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: How the Line Means in Free Verse (July 2012)
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: How the Line Means in Free Verse (July 2012)
Focusing on the line as a unit of sound and a rhythmic shape as well as a communicator of content, AlanWilliamson considers two traditions that make particularly radical breaks with the English pentameter line: the long line of Whitman, Jeffers, and Ginsberg and the short line of William Carols Williams.

Digital Downloads from the January 2012 Residency

BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Baby I've Changed, I Swear: Creating Turning Points in Prose & Poetry (January 2012)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Baby I've Changed, I Swear: Creating Turning Points in Prose & Poetry (January 2012)
Fiction writer Dean Bakopoulos defines a “turning point” as an internal process in a speaker or character that affects the course of the poem or story, and sets into motion what will become the climax, resolution, conclusion, or epiphany. He identifies and considers the internal moments that are seeds of change, leaps towards epiphany, or transformations in stories and poems, including Richard Bausch’s “The Fireman’s Wife,” Junot Diaz’s “Nilda,” Mary Gaitskill’s “Tiny Smiling Daddy,” Reginald McKnight’s “The Kind of Lights That Shines on Texas,” Donald Hall’s “Affirmation,” Franz Wright’s “To Myself,” J. Allyn Rosser’s “As If,” and Richard Hugo’s, “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg.”
BAROT, RICK: The Voice In Question (January 2012)
BAROT, RICK: The Voice In Question (January 2012)
How does a writer craft a voice which is able to compel a reader’s belief as well as surprise her? Investigating works as diverse as Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” Thomas McGuane’s “War and Peace,” and Adrienne Rich’s “The Trees,” Barot demonstrates the ways in which tone, conveyed through a poem’s syntax, diction, and formal elements, is crucial to creating a truly individualized voice rather than one of mere caricature.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: On Characters and Characterization (January 2012)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: On Characters and Characterization (January 2012)
Looking at Joyce’s “The Dead,” Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Munro’s “Friend of my Youth,” and Welty’s “The Wide Net,” Boswell develops twelve possible useful stratagems for establishing complex and believable characters, including imagining a character’s approach to the inscrutable, describing the illusions to which a character clings, and exposing a character’s darkest and ugliest motivations.
CASEY, MAUD: States of Wonder (January 2012)
CASEY, MAUD: States of Wonder (January 2012)
“Wonder in art, as in life, is difficult to pin down and hard to talk about,” says Maud Casey. “It is a state of marveling in the face of something inexplicable, perplexing, bewildering, and yet utterly compelling.” Casey offers a meditation on this elusive state, exploring the tensions between the implausible and the credible in Deszo Kosztolanyi’s Skylark, Stephen Milhauser’s “In the Reign of Harad IV,” as well as in works by Werner Herzog and Isaac Babel.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Baudelaire (January 2012)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Baudelaire (January 2012)
Stephen Dobyns provides an introduction to the life, poetic project, and influence of Charles Baudelaire, often called the first modern poet. Drawing on biographical material as well as some of the poet’s essays, Dobyns offers close readings of poems from The Flowers of Evil, tracing in them an inherent tension between passionate love and the spiritual life, as well as early and influential gestures of Symbolism.
HAYNES, DAVID: Narration, Narrators, and Edward P. Jones (January 2012)
HAYNES, DAVID: Narration, Narrators, and Edward P. Jones (January 2012)
David Haynes draws from Frederick Reiken’s essay, “The Author-Narrator-Character Merge,” to focus discussion on the nature of narrative, and in particular, on Edward P. Jones’s innovative approach. Haynes outlines possible techniques for orienting a reader, including the management of narrative time, the release of information, summation and judgment, and the modulation of narrative distance. Close readings of Jones’s stories “Old Boys, Old Girls” and “A Rich Man” highlight issues of when and why an author might choose to draw attention to narration, as well as when an appropriate choice might be to render narrative techniques invisible.
JONES, RODNEY: Poetic Language and Credibility:  The Poem that Does Not Seem to be a Poem (January 2012)
JONES, RODNEY: Poetic Language and Credibility: The Poem that Does Not Seem to be a Poem (January 2012)
Arguing that the best poems seem “but a moment’s thought,” Jones investigates how poets establish credibility through both consciously wrought technique and natural evocation of character. Readers want to sense that the voice in a poem is that of a real human being in an ordinary life; Jones examines how poets as dissimilar as Frank Bidart, Robert Creeley, Louise Gluck, Charles Wright, and James Wright work to integrate character and artifice.
LIVESEY, MARGOT: Mrs. Turpin Reads the Stars: Creating Characters (January 2012)
LIVESEY, MARGOT: Mrs. Turpin Reads the Stars: Creating Characters (January 2012)
In this lecture, novelist Livesey investigates the theory and practice of creating a character alive enough “to walk off the page.” Surveying work by Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, and John Cheever, Livesey argues that though many memorable characters are by contemporary definition “flat,” they were not conceived of as such, but rather are “always capable of reaching after roundness,” and therefore can be used to subvert and enliven reader expectations. With additional readings from Richard Ford, John Metcalf, and Ivy Compton-Burnett, Livesey concludes her class with a discussion of the ways in which both imagination and technique contribute to successful characterization.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: James Joyce: An Odyssey of Style (January 2012)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: James Joyce: An Odyssey of Style (January 2012)
“All of writing is stylistic extravagance,” asserts poet James Longenbach, “no matter how simple it may initially appear.” In his introduction to Joyce’s Ulysses, Longenbach identifies Joyce’s shift from direct realism to “linguistic extravagance” over the course of eighteen episodes. Through close readings of key passages, Longenbach explores the novel’s stylistic nature, asking: What makes us who we are, the DNA passed on to us or the language that encases us? Does character determine style, as is suggested by the earlier episodes, or, as the later episodes indicate, does style determine character?
MANNING, MAURICE: The Uses of Nostalgia (January 2012)
MANNING, MAURICE: The Uses of Nostalgia (January 2012)
Poet Maurice Manning questions whether the idea of nostalgia might offer a powerful perspective, rather than an aesthetic shortcoming. Wordsworth’s “Prelude” suggests that nostalgic moments are not “sentimental” but are a means of recognizing the wellspring of a speaker’s poetic vision. Using Emerson’s essay “Nature” as a guide, Manning considers the idea of nostalgia in Frost’s “Going for Water,” and Vachel Lindsay’s “Nancy Hanks, Mother of Abraham Lincoln.”
McILVOY, KEVIN: The One Reader (January 2012)
McILVOY, KEVIN: The One Reader (January 2012)
Kevin McIlvoy examines the influence an imagined reader, receptive or resistant, can exert on a writer. He selects prose poems by Russell Edson, Matthea Harvey, Francis Ponge, William Stafford, and James Tate as works which, he suggests, are both mistakes and “the perfection of mistakes.” McIlvoy encourages writers to think about what might be possible were they to imagine their “one reader” as positive and receptive, able to appreciate such work, rather than resistant.
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Convention and Mysticism: Dickinson, Hardy, and Williams (January 2012)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Convention and Mysticism: Dickinson, Hardy, and Williams (January 2012)
“How do we recognize individual talent if not against the backdrop of convention?” asks poet, novelist, and memoirist Alan Shapiro. Using T. S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” as a framework for his discussion, Shapiro considers the work of leading modernists who were deeply engaged with literary tradition and their individual talents. Among the works examined: Emily Dickinson, Poem 591; Thomas Hardy, “The Oxen”; and William Carlos Williams, “Portrait of a Lady.”
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Breaking Out: Narrative Shifts (January 2012)
STAFFEL, MEGAN: Breaking Out: Narrative Shifts (January 2012)
Megan Staffel examines how the “break-out scene,” which changes the tonal register and trajectory of a piece of fiction, deepens characterization and narrative drive. Looking at “The Dead,” she show how Joyce uses scenes of stillness to suspend characters in a kind of tension which pressures them to change both understanding and behavior, and allows him to boldly change the direction of his story. Staffel also explores the crafting and effects of break-out scenes in Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire which, while resulting in profound changes in the characters, never feel staged or arbitrary—rather, Staffel says, each is accomplished “in a manner that’s so concise and natural, it has the ambiguity of raw experience.”

Digital Downloads from the July 2011 Residency

BORUCH, MARIANNE: O'Connor and Bishop: Closely, at a Distance (July 2011)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: O'Connor and Bishop: Closely, at a Distance (July 2011)
Marianne Boruch examines tonal distance and imagistic precision in the work of two perhaps unlikely correspondents—Flannery O’Connor and Elizabeth Bishop. Drawing on O’Connor’s fiction, Bishop’s poetry, their visual art, and the letters they exchanged, Boruch explores the mutual influence and respect between the two writers.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: The Man in the Water: Sub-Aqua Commerce in Maximal Short Fiction (July 2011)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: The Man in the Water: Sub-Aqua Commerce in Maximal Short Fiction (July 2011)
Robert Boswell examines what he calls “big stories,” or short stories which manage in relatively few pages to convey the complexity and expansiveness of the larger world. How can a writer generate this sense of expansiveness? And what strategies can be used to make a “big story” cohere? Boswell explores these questions, focusing on examples from William Trevor and Alice Munro.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Economy, Intensity, and Ferocity: Poems by R.S. Thomas (July 2011)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Economy, Intensity, and Ferocity: Poems by R.S. Thomas (July 2011)
Stephen Dobyns investigates Welsh poet R.S. Thomas’s uses of elements of form, in particular sonic qualities, to create tension, energy and emotion within his poems. Drawing on work from throughout Thomas’ career, Dobyns examines how his methods changed over a fifty-year period.
GAVRON, JEREMY: Whose Story is it Anyway? (July 2011)
GAVRON, JEREMY: Whose Story is it Anyway? (July 2011)
Jeremy Gavron considers the limitations and benefits of using a secondary character as a narrator in a work of fiction. Looking at Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes and Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, among other novels, Gavron suggests that a narrator’s lack of full access to the “hero” of a story can intensify our attention to the hero and lend the narration a quality of truth-telling.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Structure: Housing and Transmission (July 2011)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Structure: Housing and Transmission (July 2011)
Comparing a poem to an automotive engine, Tony Hoagland argues that poems stay alive on the page by shifting gears; at such moments, Hoagland suggests, a poem can be enlarged or intensified within a single sentence. Through close readings of work by Jean Follain, Philip Larkin, Eavan Boland, Joseph Millar, and Anne Carson, Hoagland examines the organizational strategies that make such “gear-shifts” possible.
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Garden Path: Poems by Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P'o (July 2011)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Garden Path: Poems by Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P'o (July 2011)
In this lecture, Heather McHugh examines the work of two largely unknown poets, Gaspara Stampa and Su Tung P’o. McHugh conducts close readings of a range of poems by both writers and considers the ghost meanings, or multiple meanings, of the words in the poems; she suggests that this multiplicity allows the poems to work like “garden paths,” taking readers in unexpected directions.
NEVILLE, SUSAN: The Paragraph (July 2011)
NEVILLE, SUSAN: The Paragraph (July 2011)
Susan Neville suggests that paragraphing, like prosody, is a musical device. Through close readings of work by Andre Dubus, George Saunders, Sylvia Plath and Marilynne Robinson, she explores how writers can use different kinds of paragraphs to generate feeling and tone, and convey information about their characters.
OHLIN, ALIX: The Afterimage (July 2011)
OHLIN, ALIX: The Afterimage (July 2011)
Alix Ohlin explores how the idea of the afterimage, or that which lingers in our sight after a vivid visual sensation, might be applied to fiction. Through close readings of “Killings” by Andre Dubus, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and “Wants” by Grace Paley, Ohlin shows how a writer can call up an image which reminds us of what came before, thus creating both echoes of the past and surprising visions of the future.
PARSONS, ALEXANDER: Lasting First Impressions: The Novel Opening (July 2011)
PARSONS, ALEXANDER: Lasting First Impressions: The Novel Opening (July 2011)
Alexander Parsons suggests that an effective novel opening can guide the writer in both subtle and direct ways, even in its early stages of composition. Drawing on examples from Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Chandler and Haruki Murakami, Parsons argues that in drafting and redrafting this section of a novel the writer engages with structure, controlling metaphor, motif, and tone—narrative elements which can help define the book as a whole.
SZYBIST, MARY: Poetic Argument: Strategic Concessions (July 2011)
SZYBIST, MARY: Poetic Argument: Strategic Concessions (July 2011)
Mary Szybist considers one common rhetorical tool poets use to construct their arguments: the concession. To concede something in a poem is a move toward vulnerability, and it is a risk, Szybist argues, which can have enormous pay-off. Incorporating examples from Marianne Moore, Linda Gregg, David Lehman, Harryette Mullen, Sappho, and Shakespeare, Szybist examines ways in which poets have successfully used concessions to reach, persuade, and move their readers.
TURCHI, PETER: All Around the World, or the Myth of Linearity (July 2011)
TURCHI, PETER: All Around the World, or the Myth of Linearity (July 2011)
Peter Turchi draws on a range of writing, including non-fiction by Tim Ingold and Kandinsky, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and short stories by Italo Calvino, Andre Dubus and Alice Munro, to challenge the idea that our reading experience should follow a clear line from one fixed point to another. Instead, Turchi suggests, the reader can be encouraged to dwell in the story’s labyrinth, and even find that dwelling pleasurable.

Digital Downloads from the January 2011 Residency

BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: The Lyricism of Upheaval (January 2011)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: The Lyricism of Upheaval (January 2011)
Dean Bakopoulos challenges the workshop maxim that “less is more” and asks what happens when writers drop “the cloak of restraint” and move into the “realm of excess.” Fiction which seeks to enact emotional upheaval and intensity need not be melodramatic, he argues. Drawing on examples from fiction, poetry, and music, Bakopoulos looks at the strategies used in Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Barry Hannah’s “Love Too Long,” Aleksander Hemon’s Nowhere Man, and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, as well as Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago.”
BAROT, RICK: The Sea and the Zebra: Visual Effects in Poems (January 2011)
BAROT, RICK: The Sea and the Zebra: Visual Effects in Poems (January 2011)
Rick Barot explores the differences between description and image and examines the ways in which images in poetry are arranged, presented, or withheld. While description is often used to clarify, Barot points out that the most effective images rely on distortion. Through close readings of Philip Larkin’s “As Bad As a Mile,” Elaine Scarry’s “Dreaming by the Book”, Philip Larkin’s “As Bad as a Mile,” Robert Creeley’s “Something,” Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, Robert Frost’s “Out, Out—,” Laura Jensen’s “As the Window Darkens,” C.K. Williams’ “Droplets” and others, Barot demonstrates how poets can manipulate images to communicate more than what mere description can.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: On the Unsayable (January 2011)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: On the Unsayable (January 2011)
What, Stacey D’Erasmo asks, is the meaning of “the unsayable” for a writer today? She argues that the heart of the question lies not in which topics may be taboo and why, but rather in subject matter which “we fear language will be inadequate” to portray. Looking closely at Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, D’Erasmo explores how these novelists use indirection to narrate stories about the horrors of slavery and nuclear apocalypse.
MANNING, MAURICE: Place and the Composition of Poetic Self (January 2011)
MANNING, MAURICE: Place and the Composition of Poetic Self (January 2011)
In this lecture Manning examines the generative role a specific geography plays in composing a sense of poetic self. Through a study of the ways in which Coleridge’s “Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement," Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill," and Robert Penn Warren's "The Ballad of Billie Potts” render place on the page, Manning explores how these poets use tone, syntax, and form to simultaneously render self.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Reflections on the Sentence and Poetic Line (January 2011)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Reflections on the Sentence and Poetic Line (January 2011)
Kevin McIlvoy considers differences and similarities between the prose sentence and the poetic line. If a sentence functions as “a train to a destination,” he argues that the poetic line is often a kind of “pedestrian” whose guidance of the reader “invites discovery, not destination.” McIlvoy goes on to consider writing that creates points of intersections between the sentence and the line, drawing on poetry by Denise Levertov, Thom Gunn, and Jean Valentine; fiction by Angela Carter, Jim Crace, and Herta Müller; and critical studies including The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt and The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach.
PARKER, MICHAEL: All Hail the Semi-Colon (January 2011)
PARKER, MICHAEL: All Hail the Semi-Colon (January 2011)
Michael Parker explores the particular value of a semi-colon both as a form of punctuation and in terms of the broader lessons it can teach about writing. Parker argues that the semi-colon embodies ambivalence, since it is more “penetrating than a comma” and “less blunt than a period.” He shows how use of the semi-colon significantly contributes to the development of character and meaning in such short-shorts as Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and John Cheever’s “Reunion,” as well as in Lydia Davis’ translation of Madame Bovary.
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Technique of Empathy: Free Indirect Style (January 2011)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Technique of Empathy: Free Indirect Style (January 2011)
Alan Shapiro characterizes Free Indirect Style as one which enables writers to move between intimacy and distance in narration. Drawing on close readings of “The Mill” by E.A. Robinson, “Donahue’s Sister” and “Slow Waker” by Thom Gunn, and “A Fantasy” by Louise Glück, he looks at how that these poems intertwine the narrative voice with contrasting perspectives of characters within the poem. Shapiro concludes that Free Indirect Style urges us “to consider being someone else” while at the same time suggesting the limitations of empathic understanding.

Digital Downloads from the July 2010 Residency

BAXTER, CHARLES: Narrative Urgency (July 2010)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Narrative Urgency (July 2010)
Narratives should be organized, Charles Baxter remarks in this lecture, “around the truth of the material and not the deployment of devices.” Yet urgency is crucial to good fiction. Drawing on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Paula Fox’s The Widow’s Children, Joan Silber’s The Size of the World, Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Pet Dog,” and Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, Baxter offers a variety of strategies writers can use to deepen suspense and tension in their work.
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Complex Moments in Fiction (July 2010)
BOSWELL, ROBERT: Complex Moments in Fiction (July 2010)
Most readers have had the experience of responding viscerally to a particular moment in a piece of fiction; in this lecture, Robert Boswell considers how such “complex moments” are made. Through close readings of work by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forster, William Faulkner, and Kazuo Ishiguro, Boswell suggests that narratives have horizontal and vertical planes, and that writers can manage the intersections between these planes to create moments of lasting resonance.
CASEY, MAUD: The Art of Sensibility (July 2010)
CASEY, MAUD: The Art of Sensibility (July 2010)
In order to make a character compelling, the author must capture a specific human consciousness on the page. But how can writers make palpable that aspect of a person that often eludes description—his or her sensibility? Maud Casey offers three methods for depicting sensibility in fiction, looking to Barbara Comyns’ The Vet’s Daughter, Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark, and Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent as examples.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Idiom, Our Funny Valentine (July 2010)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Idiom, Our Funny Valentine (July 2010)
Idiom, like vernacular and slang, can establish shared knowledge and thus intimacy with the reader. But when, Tony Hoagland asks, does the use of idiom “dumb things down”? Hoagland looks at examples from Yehuda Amichai, Ben Lerner, John Ashbery, and Heather McHugh to consider the benefits—and liabilities—of using idiom in poems.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Excess of Poetry (July 2010)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Excess of Poetry (July 2010)
James Longenbach argues that excess is crucial to art, even to art that does not seem obviously excessive. Drawing on Keats’ idea of “fine excess,” Longenbach shows how Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” Pound’s Canto 74, and Dickinson’s “The vastest earthly Day” embody the tension between limit and excess, and enact the wish to exceed their own restraints.
TURCHI, PETER: The Pleasures of Difficulty (July 2010)
TURCHI, PETER: The Pleasures of Difficulty (July 2010)
Peter Turchi explores how writing that is challenging engages the reader, offering greater fulfillment and pleasure than easy writing would. Turchi draws on fiction by Antonya Nelson, Charles D’Ambrosio, Michael Ondaatje, and Thomas Bernhard, as well as Mahler’s 5th Symphony and theories about successful video games, to consider how writers can effectively incorporate mystery and difficulty into their work.
YOUNG, C. DALE: An Examination of Two Poems by Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara (July 2010)
YOUNG, C. DALE: An Examination of Two Poems by Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara (July 2010)
What do we mean when we describe a novel or poem as accessible? C. Dale Young looks at Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, “Ave Maria” by Frank O’Hara, and “One Train May Hide Another” by Kenneth Koch to contest the idea that Conrad, O’Hara, and Koch are simple writers. Instead, Young explores how these writers use “veils of accessibility” to coax the reader past their apparently easy surfaces.

Digital Downloads from the January 2010 Residency

BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Postponement in Fiction (January 2010)
BAKOPOULOS, DEAN: Postponement in Fiction (January 2010)
Shaped by Lorca’s concept of duende, Dean Bakopoulos’ lecture explores the effect that moments of stillness can have when they come against backdrops of intense action. Bakoupolos draws on fiction by John Cheever, James Joyce, and Jane Smiley, poetry by Richard Hugo and James Wright, and Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” to consider how these writers allow their characters, and their readers, to access the “deep song” in their lives.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: The Little Death of the Self (January 2010)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: The Little Death of the Self (January 2010)
Framed as a response to the contemporary impulse to “kill the ‘I’ in the poem,” Marianne Boruch’s lecture considers the possibilities of the lyric voice. What if, rather than narrowing the poem, the “I” opened it up to a wider perspective? Boruch looks at footage from the Hindenburg disaster and at poems by Perillo, Dickinson, Plath, Frost, Hopkins, and others to demonstrate ways in which the “I” can be both personal and more than personal.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: A Sense of Space (January 2010)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: A Sense of Space (January 2010)
Stephen Dobyns conducts close readings of the first paragraph of Henry James’ The Middle Years and William Butler Yeats’ poem “Her Praise” to examine how both writers create a sense of spaciousness in a small amount of text. Drawing on Yeats’ biography and on information about his writing process, Dobyns shows how James and Yeats use a range of craft strategies to imply the larger world.
DOERR, ANTHONY: Suspense (January 2010)
DOERR, ANTHONY: Suspense (January 2010)
What makes suspense compelling instead of melodramatic? Through close readings of work by Camus, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph Conrad, Cormac McCarthy, and Edgar Allen Poe, Anthony Doerr suggests that well-executed suspense functions at a number of levels, so that even as smaller moments of literal suspense are resolved, larger, figurative questions continue to grow.
HRIBAL, C.J.: Revelatory Information and the Art of Mystery (January 2010)
HRIBAL, C.J.: Revelatory Information and the Art of Mystery (January 2010)
C.J. Hribal considers the kind of mystery that can be produced when crucial narrative information is released early in the text. How can this strategy deepen suspense instead of resolving it? Hribal looks to music and fiction to explore this question, giving particular attention to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Sound of Shakespeare Thinking (January 2010)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: The Sound of Shakespeare Thinking (January 2010)
James Longenbach examines how writers have represented the process of meditative thinking, as opposed to “finished thought.” Tracing this kind of representation to Shakespeare, in whose plays the “sound” of characters thinking is used to great dramatic effect, Longenbach draws, too, on contemporary examples from Virginia Woolf and Louise Glück.
MANNING, MAURICE: Lyricism, Landscape, and the Inner Voice (January 2010)
MANNING, MAURICE: Lyricism, Landscape, and the Inner Voice (January 2010)
In this lecture, Maurice Manning explores the relationship of place to the constitution of a poetic self; the individual imagination, he argues, comes from the larger creativity of the natural world. Manning looks at poems by Pope, Coleridge, Dylan Thomas and Robert Penn Warren to consider how these poets return to, and re-imagine, the places that produced them.

Digital Downloads from the July 2009 Residency

CASEY, MAUD: Watching the Clock (July 2009)
CASEY, MAUD: Watching the Clock (July 2009)
Fiction is not an expression of real time, Maud Casey notes, and yet it is very much occupied by time; novels and stories are shaped and organized, their revelations dramatized, by the illusion of time passing. Through close readings of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters, and Paul LaFarge’s Haussmann, Casey considers different ways fiction writers can depict chronological as well as what she calls “emotional time” and the complex relationship between past and present.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Creation of Intimacy (July 2009)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Creation of Intimacy (July 2009)
Most of us know, Stacey D’Erasmo suggests, how to put characters in a room and get them to talk, fight, trouble and/or seduce one another— we know, that is, how to create an impression of intimacy through dialogue and action. But intimacy can be expressed by means of a variety of subtle textual strategies far more deeply implicating the reader in the characters’ emotional lives; D’Erasmo draws on fiction by D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth Bowen, William Maxwell, Virginia Woolf and Charles Baxter for examples.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Poetic Closure (July 2009)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Poetic Closure (July 2009)
“Closure,” Stephen Dobyns remarks, “usually means putting something behind us.” But in a good poem, he argues, “it means something ahead.” Through close readings of poems by Billy Collins, Philip Larkin, Kay Ryan, W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic, Carol Ann Duffy and Miroslav Holub, Dobyns examines different types of poetic closure that, by suggesting other levels of meaning, can pull the reader back into the poem again.
DOENGES, JUDY: We Are One: First Person Plural (July 2009)
DOENGES, JUDY: We Are One: First Person Plural (July 2009)
How does a literature focused almost exclusively on the life of the individual make room for the occasional work of fiction that uses a collective first-person narrator? How does using such a point of view impact the contract between writer and reader? In this lecture, Judy Doenges looks at Ayn Rand’s Anthem as a negative and Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End as a positive example of the possibilities and ramifications, both aesthetic and political, of writing fiction in the first-person plural.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Tone Poems (July 2009)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Tone Poems (July 2009)
James Longenbach considers how poetic series that are not governed by narrative or syntactical cohesion can still make convincing wholes. Through close readings of Pound’s “Villanelle, the Psychological Hour,” Eliot’s The Wasteland, and Susan Howe’s “Silence Wager Stories,” he shows how each of these poems uses tone to guide the reader through its disparate and open-ended sections.
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Stuff of Language as Packed by Wallace Stevens (July 2009)
McHUGH, HEATHER: The Stuff of Language as Packed by Wallace Stevens (July 2009)
Heather McHugh reflects on the metaphor of a poem as a container, and on the ways such a vehicle can convey something larger than itself. Drawing on prose by Wittgenstein and on poems by William Dickey and Rilke, McHugh devotes the majority of her lecture to Wallace Stevens; she explores how poems such as “Poetry is a Destructive Force,” “Jumbo,” “Imago,” and “The Immense Dew of Florida” are designed to be exceeded by what they contain.
SCHWARTZ, STEVEN: Mythic Characters (July 2009)
SCHWARTZ, STEVEN: Mythic Characters (July 2009)
Some of the most memorable and famous characters in literature—Kurtz, Gatsby, Bartleby, The Misfit—are often the most psychologically inaccessible, viewed only from the outside, opaque surfaces onto which other characters’ projections can be mapped. In this lecture, Steven Schwartz looks at fiction by Joseph Conrad, Flannery O’Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Millhauser, Katherine Anne Porter and J.D. Salinger to investigate how such mythic characters are made.
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Translation as Linguistic Hospitality (July 2009)
SHAPIRO, ALAN: Translation as Linguistic Hospitality (July 2009)
“If failure and betrayal are inevitable” in translation, Alan Shapiro asks, “how do we fail and betray in interesting and illuminating ways?” Shapiro draws on his own experiences translating The Oresteia, as well as on translations of that work by Robert Browning and Robert Fagles, to explore the challenges facing any translator and to advocate the idea of hospitality as a productive way to think about translation.
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Double Double (July 2009)
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Double Double (July 2009)
Ellen Bryant Voigt, expanding on her January 2009 class, examines what she calls “empirical irony,” “paradoxical doubling” based on factual evidence. Through close readings of poems by Robert Frost and Louise Glück, she considers how irony can enable writers to say two things at the same time, “apparently contradictory, both true.” Voigt makes crucial the distinction between ironic style, which seeks to conceal deep feeling, and irony, which discloses it, and whose subtext is “less bitterness than heartbreak.”

Digital Downloads from the January 2009 Residency

DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Context and Causality (January 2009)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Context and Causality (January 2009)
Stephen Dobyns examines how we read poems that rely on outside context, such as Berryman’s “Dream Song 18, A Strut for Roethke” and W.B. Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan.” Our reading of Berryman’s poem, for example, is shaped by knowledge of Roethke’s death and of the elegiac tradition. Arguing that such knowledge can help us understand the writer’s intention, Dobyns proposes ways in which the poet can establish context for the reader, regardless of the poem’s subject.
GROTZ, JENNIFER:
GROTZ, JENNIFER: "An Anxiety of Influence" for Girls (January 2009)
In his 1973 book The Anxiety of Influence, Harold Bloom posits that the young poet must assume poetic authority through willfully misreading, and then overthrowing, a precursor poet. In this lecture, Jennifer Grotz meditates on what in Bloom’s theory is helpful and what is harmful for a young writer; she draws on essays by Bloom and Eliot, and on poems by Plath, Graham, Moore, Milton, Bishop, Milosz, and Merwin, to offer a different understanding of what poetic authority is and how one might obtain it.
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Poetic Amplitude (January 2009)
LONGENBACH, JAMES: Poetic Amplitude (January 2009)
How do great works of verbal art incorporate language that might seem, in another context, to violate any familiar prescription for what makes writing good? In this lecture, James Longenbach examines how writers can use moments of flat or enervated language to thrilling, amplifying effect; he looks, for examples, at three of Shakespeare’s plays and at poems by Bishop, Eliot, Moore, Ashbery, Bidart, and Glück.
McILVOY, KEVIN: Opportunities for Imminence (January 2009)
McILVOY, KEVIN: Opportunities for Imminence (January 2009)
If imminence is the state in which events are about to occur, isn’t it the fiction writer’s job to fulfill that “about-to,” and make things happen? In this lecture, Kevin McIlvoy suggests otherwise. Through close readings of Grimm’s fairytales, James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Sherwood Anderson’s “Death in the Woods,” and Agha Shahid Ali’s “The Last Saffron,” McIlvoy explores the power and possibility that can be produced when writers dwell longer in “about-to-happen” conditions.
SMITH, DOMINIC: Varieties of Movement: Plot and Beyond in Fiction (January 2009)
SMITH, DOMINIC: Varieties of Movement: Plot and Beyond in Fiction (January 2009)
What keeps us turning the pages of prose pieces by W.G. Sebald or Gertrude Stein, works known for their lack of “event”? In this lecture, Dominic Smith challenges and expands conventional ideas about how fiction can move. Drawing on Aristotle’s Poetics, Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and David Markson’s The Last Novel, Smith considers a variety of types of plot, as well as other devices that can generate momentum at a more molecular level.
TURCHI, PETER: Archimedes' Problem, and Three Solutions (January 2009)
TURCHI, PETER: Archimedes' Problem, and Three Solutions (January 2009)
“Give me a place to stand and a lever,” Peter Turchi quotes Archimedes as claiming, “and I will move the Earth.” In this lecture, Turchi looks at John Updike’s Rabbit is Rich, E.L. Doctorow’s The March, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude to consider how writers can make “levers” to propel their narratives forward. Turchi pays particular attention to the openings of these novels, suggesting that writers can use beginnings to establish the rules and themes of what is to come.
WILNER, ELEANOR: The Revolving Door of the Imagination (January 2009)
WILNER, ELEANOR: The Revolving Door of the Imagination (January 2009)
“Poetry at its most powerful,” Eleanor Wilner argues, allows us to “shift away” from what we expect to see; she suggests that such shifts can occur when the speaker finds ways to move “out of the shallows of the ego” and into a deeper kind of consciousness. Wilner examines poems by Richard Wilbur, Theodore Roethke, Radcliffe Squires and Gerald Stern to locate such moments of transformation— and consider the craft strategies that make them possible.

Digital Downloads from the July 2008 Residency

BAXTER, CHARLES: Regarding Happiness (July 2008)
BAXTER, CHARLES: Regarding Happiness (July 2008)
Why, Charles Baxter asks, is happiness such an intractable subject for treatment in extended dramatic forms, whether poetry or fiction? While reflecting on the difficulties in writing about happiness, Baxter offers several strategies writers can use to approach the subject; he turns to Czeslaw Milosz’s “Gift,” Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River,” and John Cheever’s “The Worm in the Apple” for examples.
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Love Among the Ruins (July 2008)
D'ERASMO, STACEY: Love Among the Ruins (July 2008)
Stacey D’Erasmo argues that the novel of sexual identity is no longer, on its own, compelling. Yet certain of the sexual identity novel’s tropes—the narratives of passing and of double lives, of desire stifled by circumstance and of discontinuous selves—remain compelling to contemporary writers. D’Erasmo looks at work by Michael Cunningham, Jeannette Winterson, Colm Toibin, Monique Truong and others to explore how the architecture of the sexual identity novel has been recycled and transformed.
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Linebreaks (July 2008)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: Linebreaks (July 2008)
In this lecture, Stephen Dobyns considers the function of linebreaks in metered and non-metered poetry, focusing on how they can be used to convey nuance. Drawing on poems by Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Matthew Arnold, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, James Wright and Louise Glück, Dobyns explores a variety of types of line breaks and examines how they work, in the context of each particular poem, to create rhythm and meaning.
MAZUR, GRACE DANE: Forbidden Looking (July 2008)
MAZUR, GRACE DANE: Forbidden Looking (July 2008)
What is looking, Grace Dane Mazur asks, that it should be so enticing, so fatal, and so forbidden? How is looking different from seeing? What kind of insight is gained from forbidden looking, and is it worth the consequences? Mazur considers these questions through the lens of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and reflects on the differences in how Rubens, Virgil, and Ovid represent Orpheus’ famous look back.
TURCHI, PETER:
TURCHI, PETER: "If it makes you happy, why the hell are you so sad?" (July 2008)
In this lecture about tonal and emotional range, the combination of darkness and light, Peter Turchi reflects on the powerful effect that mixed emotions can have in music and in fiction. Turchi examines the ways in which Joe Turner’s song “Honey Hush” and fiction by James Thurber, Anton Chekhov, Cormac McCarthy, and Vladimir Nabokov layer contrasting emotions on top of one another; he shows how this layering can disrupt the reader’s assumptions and give the work lasting resonance.

Digital Downloads from the January 2008 Residency

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Digital Downloads from Residencies before 2001

ALESHIRE, JOAN:  Out of Extremity: Emotion and Conscience (July 1989)
ALESHIRE, JOAN: Out of Extremity: Emotion and Conscience (July 1989)
Joan Aleshire considers how literature addressing extremes of human experience must establish a balance between the personal and the universal, the inner and the outer world. Looking at poems by Bishop, Kunitz, Lowell, Mandelstam, Olds and others, she warns against glorifying or overdramatizing the pain which is a fundamental part of life. At the same time, she argues, with Kafka, that the well-made work of literature wields the power of an ax “to break the frozen sea within us” and deliver us to ourselves.
ALI, AGHA SHAHID:  Defense of the Canon: A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males (January 1998)
ALI, AGHA SHAHID: Defense of the Canon: A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males (January 1998)
Agha Shahid Ali examines the difference between subject matter and form, asserting that “the more realized the form, the deeper the content.” He tests his principle in the context of the English Canon formed in India to serve the purposes of colonialism. Quoting the provocative claim that “One shelf of English literature is superior to all the art in the history of the world,” Ali offers an historical and political understanding of the standards set by English literature and the effect of these standards on writers today. Among the texts considered are Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue,” Wallace Stevens’ “Snow Man,” and essays by T.S. Eliot, Salman Rushdie, John Ashbery, V.S. Naipaul and others.
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Plath's Bees (July 1990)
BORUCH, MARIANNE: Plath's Bees (July 1990)
Marianne Boruch traces the growth of Sylvia Plath’s bee sequence in Ariel from obsessive image to transcendent poetry. Using passages from early fiction as well as later letters and journal entries, Boruch shows us how Plath turned again and again to details of her actual experience of keeping a hive as she slowly developed her totemic image. Boruch argues that this lived experience of bee-keeping allowed Plath to ground her astonishing lyric sequence, “five poems written in one sleepless week,” in “the lucidity and vigor of narrative.”
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: On Structure (January 1990)
DOBYNS, STEPHEN: On Structure (January 1990)
Offering close readings of Philip Larkin’s “The Explosion” and Lon Otto’s “A Very Short Story,” Stephen Dobyns argues that structure is both the means by which information is released and the information itself. He states that structure, whether in poetry or prose, represents the means by which formal elements (language, texture, pacing, and tone) may be imposed upon informal elements (action, emotion, setting and idea). In conclusion, Dobyns cautions that a work’s structure can only be determined when the writer has fully understood its purpose.
HOAGLAND, TONY: Disproportion: Excess in Poetry (January 1993)
HOAGLAND, TONY: Disproportion: Excess in Poetry (January 1993)
Tony Hoagland identifies and champions poetry which belongs neither to the camp of the well-made and conservative nor to the zany and subversive. He describes how this third type, often excessive and highly dramatic, may not know exactly “what it is,” but can praise and reflect the objective world while at the same time asserting the supremacy of the imagination. Looking at poems by Tess Gallagher, Horace, Susan Mitchell, Wallace Stevens and W.C. Williams, Hoagland argues that much can be gained from studying a poem which absolves its writer from the need “to perfect.”
LEVIS, LARRY: On Elegy:  Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island”  (January 1994)
LEVIS, LARRY: On Elegy: Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island” (January 1994)
Through a close reading of Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island,” the late Larry Levis reflects on the challenge which the elegaic form presents to a writer. Levis believes the dual purpose of the elegy-- to remember and to inter the dead-- can involve a poet, ambivalent about forsaking the beloved to seek a new object of affection, in an ethical dilemma. Levis looks at the effect of this complexity on Heaney’s poem and concludes that what matters in poetry, as in life, is passion.
McHUGH, HEATHER: Mirrors and Misgivings (July 2000)
McHUGH, HEATHER: Mirrors and Misgivings (July 2000)
In this lecture, Heather McHugh reconsiders the idea that a work of art mirrors the world. Through close readings of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Insomnia,” Louise Bogan’s “Man Alone,” Robert Graves’ “The Face in the Mirror,” Gustaf Sobin’s “Out of the Identity,” and W.B. Yeats’ “The Cat and the Moon,” McHugh examines how poems create multiple readings and “break out of the mirror’s stronghold.” The best work of any artist, argues McHugh, is that of “discovery and not recapitulation, motivated by curiosity, not foreknowledge.”
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Revision, Inspiration, and the Draft Process:  Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” (January 1996)
VOIGT, ELLEN BRYANT: Revision, Inspiration, and the Draft Process: Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” (January 1996)
Ellen Bryant Voigt’s lecture on revision challenges the familiar notion of how a poem comes to be: first inspiration, then “work.” Instead, Voigt suggests that “the product of work itself” can provide stimulus and instruction. Concentrating on Elizabeth Bishop’s six-month drafting process of “One Art” during which early repetitions gradually evolved into her masterful villanelle, Voigt demonstrates that “Vision may be the fruit of technique, not only its precursor.”
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: Iambic Pentameter (July 1998)
WILLIAMSON, ALAN: Iambic Pentameter (July 1998)
Exploring the blank verse of MacBeth and the sprung rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” Alan Williamson investigates the relationship between energetic speech, musical feeling, and iambic pentameter. Williams discusses how Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean blank verse drama The Changeling influenced T.S. Eliot’s “Gerontion,” and goes on to consider how the ghost of iambic pentameter can invite the ear to seek musical patterns which create clarity.
WILNER, ELEANOR: Playing the Changes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (January 1998)
WILNER, ELEANOR: Playing the Changes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (January 1998)
Eleanor Wilner offers close readings of several of Ovid’s stories and demonstrates that the poet undergoes a transformation during the act of writing. She contends that poetry is not impersonal, as T. S. Eliot asserted, but suggests that the action of a poet’s imagination is “transpersonal.” Wilner discusses the ways in which Ovid’s figures and stories have been renewed by a virtually endless stream of artists and goes on to focus on moments of transfiguration in the work of Gerald Stern, Thom Gunn, Jorie Graham, and others.