• Literature class

Literature

A faculty of writers

Literature and writing at Bennington are grounded in the idea that good writers are by definition good readers. In small seminars centered on animated discussion, students are invited by a faculty of novelists, memoirists, poets, literary journalists, and translators to share a writer’s perspective on contemporary and classic works of literature. Students discover that the act of writing is a conversation with other writers, past and present; that analysis is artful and imaginative; that creative writing is rigorous and thoughtful. We aim to develop students’ aptitude for critical thinking, analytical reading, scholarly writing, literary translation, and creative writing by engaging them in the concentrated study of a broad range of literary works and styles from antiquity to the present.  

Bennington’s literary community is an active one. Literature Evenings are held in a student house living room and feature bi-weekly readings by distinguished guest writers, students, and faculty. The annual winter Field Work Term allows students firsthand experience in the world of publishing, journalism, literary magazines, and other areas in which they can enrich their writing and reading. Student publications like SILO and the Bennington Free Press provide outlets for student writing and editing. And Bennington Review, a national biannual literary journal based at the College, provides students with the opportunity to help edit and produce a professional print literary magazine.

The vibrancy of this community can be seen in our alumni: Among them are seven Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, the youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize, a MacArthur “Genius,” countless New York Times bestsellers and National Book Awards. Recent graduates have gone on to attend PhD and MFA programs at Stanford University, Iowa Writers Workshop, NYU, UVA, Brown University, among many others. Very recent graduates have had poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, journalism, and book reviews published or accepted by The Atlantic Wire, The Awl, Boston Review, Christian Science Monitor, Denver Quarterly, The Guardian, Los Angeles Review of Books, Ploughshares, and more.

At Bennington, students work closely with faculty to design the content, structure, and sequence of their study and practice—their Plan—taking advantage of the College's resources both inside and outside the classroom to pursue their work. 

Faculty

Bennington’s literature faculty is made up teacher-practitioners—active writers, renowned in their fields. They are NEA fellows, Fulbright fellows, and PEN Award finalists, and have been published in The New Yorker, Slate, The Paris Review, Yale Review, Tin House, The Literary Review, Chicago Review, Best American Short Stories, among others.

Field Work Term

During the annual Field Work Term, our students write for national publications, work at major publishers, help get startup literary journals off the ground, learn the ins and outs of bookselling and promotion, and delve further afield to help them research their own creative projects.

And More

Alumni

Bennington’s literary legacy includes seven Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, the youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize, a MacArthur “Genius,” countless New York Times bestsellers and National Book Awards.

Donna Tartt '86
Donna Tartt '86
Anne Waldman '66
Anne Waldman '66
Mohammed Naseehu Ali '95
Mohammed Naseehu Ali '95
Summer Brennan '01
Summer Brennan '01
Judith Butler '78
Judith Butler '78
Kiran Desai '93
Kiran Desai '93
Anais Duplan '14
Anais Duplan '14
Andrea Dworkin '68
Andrea Dworkin '68
Bret Easton Ellis '86
Bret Easton Ellis '86
Elizabeth Frank '67
Elizabeth Frank '67
James Geary '85
James Geary '85
Judith Jones '45
Judith Jones '45
Jonathan Lethem '86
Jonathan Lethem '86
Megan Marshall '75
Megan Marshall '75
Luke Mogelson '05
Luke Mogelson '05
Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan '76
Roxana Robinson '68
Roxana Robinson '68
Mary Ruefle '74
Mary Ruefle '74
Safiya Sinclair '10
Safiya Sinclair '10
Julieanne Smolinski '05
Julieanne Smolinski '05
Donna Tartt '86

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Goldfinch and one of TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2014

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Anne Waldman '66

Acclaimed poet, cofounder with Allen Ginsberg of the celebrated Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, recipient of the American Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement and a Guggenheim fellowship, and chancellor of the Academy of American Poets

Mohammed Naseehu Ali '95

Author of The Prophet of Zongo Street, a short story collection, as well as fiction and essays published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and numerous other journals

Summer Brennan '01

Award-winning journalist, United Nations communications consultant, and author of The Oyster War

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Judith Butler '78

Author of Gender Trouble, one of the most important works of philosophy and gender theory of the postmodern era

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Kiran Desai '93

Winner of the Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award

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Anais Duplan '14

Poet, author of Take This Stallion, director of the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program for new media artists of color, and MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Andrea Dworkin '68

Feminist writer whose work was a lightning rod for the debate on pornography and censorship in the United States

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Bret Easton Ellis '86

Published his first novel, Less Than Zero, while at Bennington, and went on to critical acclaim for books like American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction

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Elizabeth Frank '67

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of the poet Louise Bogan and the painters Jackson Pollock and Esteben Vicente whose writings on literature and art have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Art in America, The Nation, and ARTnews

James Geary '85

Deputy curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, former editor of the European edition of TIME magazine, and author of I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World

Judith Jones '45

Introduced the world to Julia Child, James Beard, and Madhur Jaffrey as senior editor and vice president of Alfred A. Knopf

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Jonathan Lethem '86

Writer whose work in many genres have won him spots on bestseller lists, a National Book Critics Award, and a coveted MacArthur “Genius Grant”

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Megan Marshall '75

Scholar, writer, and biographer whose book Margaret Fuller: A New American Life won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize

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Luke Mogelson '05

Investigative reporter, writer, and contributor to The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and other national outlets

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Michael Pollan '76

Journalist and bestselling author who has raised the American consciousness of how food gets to our plates

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Roxana Robinson '68

Award-winning novelist and biographer of Georgia O’Keeffe

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Mary Ruefle '74

Poet and essayist, and winner of the Guggenheim and a Whiting Writers’ Award

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Safiya Sinclair '10

Poet whose first collection, Cannibal (2016), won a Prairie Schooner Book Prize and who received the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation in 2015

Julieanne Smolinski '05

Writer for GQ, McSweeney’s, Jezebel, Vulture, and New York Magazine and the television series Sirens and Gracie and Frankie, who was declared one of the “funniest women on Twitter” by The Huffington Post