The low-residency format can be seen as the response of the literary sensibility to the realities of modern life. It is an alternative time calculation, realistically reflecting the seasons and rhythms of a writer's actual work habits. It offers considerable freedom to the student, but the student must be willing to practice a good deal of Emersonian self-reliance. At Bennington, freedom and responsibility exist on a continuum just as freedom and responsibility exist in a dynamic interdependence.
Twice a year, in January and June, Writing Seminars’ students and faculty gather on the Bennington campus for residencies. Both students and faculty stay in houses on campus and take meals together in the College Dining Halls. What follows—10 intensive days of readings, lectures, craft sessions, workshops, musical events, seminars, and other activities—is a striking contrast to the six months of solitary work between residencies, and is meant to be.
During the 6-month tutorial periods, students are expected to devote at least 25 hours each week to their writing and reading. Each student will work with four different teachers over the two-years required to complete the degree, exchanging regularly-scheduled packets of new creative work, revisions, critical responses to readings, and engaging in an ongoing literary/tutorial conversation with each teacher. We believe strongly that intense exposure to different sensibilities is one of the bounties of the Seminars. The student is inevitably forced to break the comfort bubble at some point, and nothing is more salutary to the work. By the same token, each writer gets the chance to study with four outstanding writers in her chosen genre, which can only enrich her understanding of her art.