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 Pressprovide 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.
Courses examine the broadest possible range of world literature, including questions of translation. Students have the opportunity to write creatively in academic classes and analytically in creative writing classes.
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.
In Bennington's Word and Image Lab—Bennington's letterpress studio dedicated to the book—poetry and prose meet, and leap from, the page.
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.
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.
Notables and Influencers
Donna Tartt '86
Anne Waldman '66
Mohammed Naseehu Ali '95
Summer Brennan '01
Judith Butler '78
Kiran Desai '93
Anais Duplan '14
Andrea Dworkin '68
Bret Easton Ellis '86
Elizabeth Frank '67
James Geary '85
Judith Jones '45
Jonathan Lethem '86
Megan Marshall '75
Luke Mogelson '05
Michael Pollan '76
Roxana Robinson '68
Mary Ruefle '74
Safiya Sinclair '10
Julieanne Smolinski '05
Donna Tartt '86
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Goldfinch and one of TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2014
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
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
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
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