Public Schedule for MFA Winter Residency

Posted on Dec 6, 2016

The public is welcome to attend the morning lectures and evening readings in fiction

and poetry offered during the Master of Fine Arts Program winter residency.

Events last approximately one hour. Admission is free. The schedule is subject to change.

For more information, call the MFA Office: (828) 771-3715.

Readings will begin at 8:15 PM in Canon Lounge in Gladfelter unless indicated otherwise.


Tuesday, January 3—8:00 PM —Gladfelter, Canon Lounge

Andrea Barrett, Paul Otremba, Danielle Evans, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Marisa Silver

Wednesday, January 4

David Shields, Chase Twichell, Megan Staffel, Alan Williamson

Thursday, January 5

Jeremy Gavron, Sandra Lim, Antonya Nelson, Daniel Tobin

Friday, January 6

Martha Rhodes, Kevin McIlvoy, Connie Voisine, Laura van den Berg

Saturday, January 7

Marianne Boruch, C.J. Hribal, Eleanor Wilner, Peter Orner

Sunday, January 8—no readings

Monday, January 9

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Dean Bakopoulos, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Charles Baxter

Tuesday, January 10

Liam Callanan, Debra Allbery, David Haynes, Alan Shapiro


Wednesday, January 11

Abigail Cahill O’Brien, Matthew Alberswerth, Sarah Halper, Rose Skelton

Thursday, January 12—4:30 PM, Ransom Fellowship Hall, followed by Graduation Ceremony

Emilie Beck, Terri Leker, Paul Mihas


All lectures will be in Canon Lounge in Gladfelter unless indicated otherwise.

For more information, call the MFA Office at Warren Wilson College: (828) 771-3715.

The schedule is subject to change.

Wednesday, January 4 – 11:00 AM

DEAN BAKOPOULOS: They Threw Me Off the Hay Truck: On Bafflement and Difficulty

In this lecture, we’ll examine the state of bafflement that is often the genesis of lasting literary work, and the slippery concept of difficulty, particularly when writing about the struggle for justice in times of violence and upheaval (political or personal). We’ll begin with a section of Ralph Ellison’s essay “Harlem is Nowhere,” and go from there, with a focus on the genres of magical realism and noir mystery. The lecture will likely refer to the fiction of Haruki Murakami, Helen Oyemi, James Cain, Valeria Luiselli, and Alain Mabanckou, and poems by Kevin Young, Jericho Brown, Tarfia Faizullah, Maram Al-Massri, and Ada Limón. No advance reading is necessary; handouts will be provided.

Thursday, January 5 – 9:30 AM

ALAN WILLIAMSON: On Poetic Density

If it is true that, as Julia Kristeva says, “our gift of situating ourselves in time for an other could exist nowhere except beyond an abyss,” then it’s worth looking at poems that bypass the imitation of daily speech, that make their narrative occasions slightly mysterious. Instead, such poems concentrate, even overload, many of the traditional resources of poetry—sound, implicit as well as explicit metaphor, the secondary or connotative meanings of words—to convey something more like a state of consciousness. We will look at Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” Hart Crane’s “Lachrymae Christi,” Sylvia Plath’s “The Night Dances,” and, as a contemporary example or counter-example, Brenda Hillman’s “To Spirits of Fire After Harvest.”

Thursday, January 5 -10:45 AM 

PETER ORNER: In Praise of “Inaction”

An (imperfect) exploration of some instances of when and why writers opt for a quiet detonation as opposed to an explosion in a pivotal moment. Some people might call this old-hat anti-climax, but I’m not sure it is anti-anything. The attempt to try something unexpectedly inactive is—sometimes—a far more radical and mysterious narrative choice. Using examples from Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as a point of departure, I’ll be discussing examples of how certain less-familiar writers such as Gina Berriault, Felisberto Hernandez, Penelope Fitzgerald, Yoko Towada, and John McGahern employ inaction in critical moments. For the very ambitious, I’d point you to Part Two of To the Lighthouse, the first twenty-five pages of As I Lay Dying, as well as “The Light at Birth” by Gina Berriault, “The Flooded House” by Felisberto Hernandez, “Where Europe Begins” by YokoTowada, Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald, and “The Wine Breath” by John McGahern. Handouts will be provided.

Friday, January 6 -9:30 AM

C. J. HRIBAL: The Intimate Distance of Bohumil Hrabal 

Novels and stories narrated in the first person are essentially monologues, but what happens when this is taken to an extreme? Bohumil Hrabal likes to call his writing style “palavering,” or as the critic James Wood calls it, “anecdote without end.” His narratives move forward through narrators who, once they’re wound up, just keep talking and talking and talking, spilling all their (and other people’s) secrets, like the singer in Sonny Boy Williams’ “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’” (“Don’t start me to talkin’, I’ll tell everything I know”). This lecture will serve as an introduction to Hrabal’s work, with attention paid to what we can learn from this highly idiosyncratic style. Texts discussed will include: Closely Watched Trains, I Served the King of England, and Too Loud a Solitude. Other texts referred to will include The Little Town Where Time Stood Still, Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, and his story collection, The Death of Mr. Baltisberger (among others). Handouts will be provided, but reading one of the above is recommended.

Friday, January 6 -10:45 AM

ELEANOR WILNERDisguise and Discovery: The Masks of Art

The talk will explore opposing uses of the mask in the world of doing vs. the world of making; in the latter, the role of the mask of art in the imaginative opening of identity to plurality, and of self to other. Handouts will be provided.

Saturday, January 7 – 11:00 AM

ANDREA BARRETT: The Transformation: Virginia Woolf  and The Years

In 1931, Virginia Woolf made her first notes for what she called “an Essay-Novel, called The Pargiters—and it’s to take in everything, sex, education, life, etc.” By 1934 she had a 900-page draft, which she revised heavily several times. By 1936 she was in such despair about the novel that she nearly collapsed; she revised again in what Leonard Woolf called “the most drastic and ruthless way,” set that draft in page proofs—and revised still more. The Years as we know it—radically different from her earlier conceptions–was published in 1937. I’ll talk about Woolf’s path through that massive structural revision and what we might gain by a similar effort. No prior reading necessary; handouts provided.

Wednesday, January 11 – 9:30 AM

CHASE TWICHELL: A Problem Concerning Metaphor 

Bodhidharma, the 5th century Indian Buddhist monk who brought Zen (Chan) to China, wrote: “If you use a trap to catch a fish, once you’ve succeeded you can forget the trap. If you use language to find meaning, once you find it you can forget the language.” As a student of Zen Buddhism, I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to see the world just as it is, unobscured by the layers of association, assumption, and meaning I as a human being have ascribed to it. As a poet, I’ve spent my entire life doing pretty much the opposite: seeking meaning in and correspondences between things. Language, of course, is my medium, and metaphor the crucial linguistic place where most of the enlightening collisions happen. Is there an irreconcilable problem here? By Zen lights, is metaphor inherently an enemy of clear vision? In this lecture we’ll look at Chinese, Japanese, and American poems, ancient to contemporary, to see how Zen poets manage (or fail) to “forget the trap.”

Wednesday, January 11 – 10:45 AM

CHARLES BAXTER: My Mother’s Hatpins

Most fiction takes place in the present, but some fiction takes on the challenge of predicting the future (H. G. Wells’ “Things to Come,” and the fiction of Philip K. Dick, among many other SciFi texts), and some other kinds of fiction tries to memorialize and preserve what Samuel Beckett calls “things about to disappear.” I’m most interested in the latter mode, and I plan to talk about Deborah Eisenberg’s “Twilight of the Superheroes” and Edward P. Jones’s story “Gospel.”

Thursday, January 12 – 9:30 AM Ransom Fellowship Hall

ANTONYA NELSON: True Grist: Material, and its Milling

“Stories don’t happen to people who can’t tell them,” claims Alan Gurganus’ oldest living Confederate widow. Is it so? This lecture will be a meditation on the process of finding—in life, literature, and lore, from fact, fiction, fairy tale—and using the stuff of stories.

Thursday, January 12 – 10:45 AM Ransom Fellowship Hall

MARIANNE BORUCH: Little Words in the Museum of the Humanly Possible: 

                                        Oh and Oh No and Ah

The pool of thought I’ll offer as a lecture is a tryptic on three governing little exclamations (see above), two steps forward and one back, all having to do with how poems (and stories too, perhaps the same principle) rise out of a little or a lot.
  1) “Oh” comes from far away, and past, a remembrance, a haunting, but no, not nostalgia. It’s private out of public; it’s a lyric stop out of a narrative flood.
  2) Then there’s the “Oh No” of bummer lit, what we as poets love best to read and to write (maybe you fiction writers as well), and why is that? And how? And some of us have ended up trapped there: the newly rediscovered British writer Rosemary Tonks, the part-Brit Sylvia Plath (we will consider her drafts of “Poppies in July”), Berryman, Philip Larkin, Lucia Perillo, the dark wit of all three. (Not Dante, who went there so willfully, to name names, dogged brilliant journalist and outsider/insider that he was, to remake the world.)
  3) And finally, in the museum of the humanly possible, there’s the blessed “Ah” though not exactly to rescue. Think George Oppen’s remark in his Notebooks: “I do not care for ‘systems. What concerns me is the philosophy of the astonished.” We’re delivered at times by what could be an unfashionable semi-optimism (though tangled darkly enough to please and convince us) but how is this managed by thoughtful non-idiots? And how strange is that option, to get beyond the standard moral tale somehow? There’s Adelia Prado, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, W. H. Auden. Maybe we can talk about surprise and still be surprised.
   It could be that all of the above will be considered. Handouts provided. Dream and attention and mutiny encouraged.