Program in the Written ArtsBard College

Written Arts

Program Overview

The Program in Written Arts is one of three programs within the Division of Languages and Literature. (The three programs are: Literature, Foreign Language and Culture, and Written Arts.)

Majoring in the program is at the same time majoring in the division, but each program has requirements of its own. In the same way, moderating into a program is moderating into the division, but each program has its own specific moderation requirements—see Frequently Asked Questions 1–4, below, for an account of the requirements for moderation and advanced work in The Program in Written Arts.

The purpose of the Program in Written Arts is to permit and encourage students to experiment with their own writing in a context sensitive to intellectual, historical, and social realities. Writing so pursued becomes then part of a humanist education, where the private effort of the writer addresses and becomes part of the world's discourse.

While the Program is staffed exclusively by professional writers, the emphasis tends to be on the innovative and experimental as well as straightforward narration; intellectual stress is placed on literary theory and literary history, trying to make students fully aware of conscious and unconscious influences on their writing, and of the reception their work is likely to find in the world.

Writing is conceived of as a practice, an energetic private enactment of public language. Self-expression is not part of the job description—any self one happens to have will inevitably come to expression whether it's summoned or not.
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The Requirements for Moderation

  • A student may moderate into the Program in Literature and the Program in Written Arts at the same time. If the student chooses to do so, he or she submits a portfolio of approximately ten pages, but no more than twenty pages, of original writing in his or her chosen genre, in addition to the two Short Papers and the Long Paper required for the moderation into Literature.
  • 5 courses in the Division of Languages and Literature. Some of these courses may be taken during the semester of moderation, though it is advisable to spread them out over the first two years at the college.
  • Of these 5 courses, 1 must be an Interpretation of Literature course and 1 must be from one of the three Literature sequences (English Literature I, II, and III; U.S. Literature I, II, III, and IV; or Comparative Literature A, I, II, and III). See FAQ 1
  • All courses in the Division of Languages and Literature, including those in foreign languages and writing, may be used to meet the 5-course requirement.  A maximum of two workshops may be so counted.
  • Students who wish to moderate into the Written Arts must complete all of the requirements for Literature. In addition, they must (a) successfully complete a writing workshop and (b) demonstrate reading competence in a foreign language, either as a result of courses taken at Bard, or by having knowledge of a language confirmed by a member of the Language faculty. (Such proficiency will be determined by a short exam administrated by a member of the Written Arts and/or Language faculties.)
  • Senior Project Permission Request Form

Requirements: Senior Project

  • Please note, the passing of moderation does not guarantee permission to do a creative Senior Project. you will be asked to submit your name and a writing sample for approval. An e-mail will be sent to all students, providing further specifics at that time.
  • Senior projects in Written Arts normally take the form of a novella, a collection of short stories, essays, a book of poems, translations or the like – typically 70 –200 pages. The work should be composed during the project year.
  • At the end of Junior year, those moderated students who wish to pursue a Senior Project in the Written Arts must apply to, and receive explicit permission from, the writing faculty. (Permission will be granted by a committee comprised of two writing faculty members, one of whom is familiar with the student’s work to date.) The student should present to this committee a written proposal that articulates his or her aims/ interests in terms such as formal exploration, thematic content, and contextual framing. The date for the submission of the proposal will be announced each year.

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1. What's required for moderation?

As is the case if you are a student wishing to moderate into Literature, you must have taken

  • five literature courses at the time of moderation

You may be enrolled in any of these at the exact time of moderation. As is not the the case for Literature, one of these five must be a writing workshop. Two workshops are permitted.

  • You must also have taken one of the sequence courses, e.g., American Literature I or Comparative Literature II.

2. How are my requirements different if I choose to graduate in the Writing Program versus Languages and Literature?

Unlike the Literature Program, the Writing Program requires you to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language (see Language Requirement, below); it also requires one of your six literature courses, required for moderation, to be a workshop. The Writing Program does allow two of these courses to be workshops, though it also encourages students to avoid becoming addicts to the workshop process. Rather, you might choose to avail yourself of Bard's literature offerings, affording yourself the greatest possible exposure to literature of different eras.

Note: Please do not fear if you do not get into a workshop on first go-round as a first-year student; your first workshop experience could come as late as sophomore year, spring semester, and, with all other academic factors working for you, you would still be recommended for moderation into the Writing Program.

3. What should I include in my moderation portfolio?

  1. TWO SHORT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS: You will submit the two short essays outlined in the college-wide moderation requirements, reflecting on your past and future at Bard and beyond.
  2. ANALYTIC ESSAY: In addition, as is the case with all moderations in the Languages and Literature division, you will want to include a strong ten-page analytic essay you have written for one of your literature sequence courses. If you do not have a strong enough essay from one of these courses, you may, if granted the consent of your adviser, submit an essay from another literature course.
  3. CREATIVE WORK: As is not the case with the Languages and Literature division, for the Writing Program, you will also submit a ten-page sample of your creative work. This can be work you did in one of your workshops, but need not be. It is preferable that the work submitted be in the genre upon which you wish to focus (e.g., literary nonfiction, fiction, or poetry).

Recommendation: We strongly advise you to revise your work for both the analytic and creative components, in the spirit of leading with your best writing.

4. What is the foreign language requirement in the Writing Program's moderation plan?

Two methods fulfill this requirement:

  1. In order to fulfill the language requirement in the most traditional method, you must take, or have taken, one college-level course in the language. This means that you can study the language in an accredited site other than Bard, or that you can use your Advanced Placement study as a substitute.
  2. The second possibility requires that you pass an exam in which you demonstrate reading knowledge of a foreign language. This test will be administered by a member of the program.
  3. Methods for requesting exemptions or exams: because you are required to have reading knowledge in a foreign language, the writing program will meet to go over written requests asking for exemptions or exams. Only requests emailed to with the subject heading "REQUEST FOR EXEMPTION FROM LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT " will receive a response when the committee meets.

5. What happens if I want to get into a workshop?

Please be attentive to all workshop submission deadlines and guidelines as they appear in the college catalog and its supplements. Generally, you will be mailing your submissions, with a cover letter, to the professor into whose class you wish entry. Guidelines for such submission might loosely be constituted as follows (but please be attentive to what each professor requests): 10 pages for fiction (12-point, double-spaced), 10 pages for nonfiction, 8 pages for poetry. You should always submit your best work in the genre, rather than too many pages representing your less successful forays into that particular genre. Always append a cover letter with your name, contact details, year of expected graduation, possible degree, and any other interesting details about yourself that may help guide the professor's evaluation. Please indicate in the cover letter whether or not you're applying to more than one workshop (see Applying to Workshops, below).

6. Applying to Workshops: May I apply to more than one workshop?

Yes. You may apply, for instance, to both Intermediate and Advanced Fiction, or to Intermediate Fiction at the same time as you apply to Beginning Poetry. Please advise the professors that you are doing so in your cover letter.

7. Workshops in One Semester: May I take more than one workshop a semester?

No -- the Writing Program strongly discourages students from taking more than one workshop a semester. We do not wish to cultivate "workshop junkies". The general expectation is that you would take one workshop a year, possibly two. Those who, for example, might have taken Written Arts in their first year at Bard should probably wait until sophomore year to apply.

8. Genre Exploration: Can I take workshops in many genres?

On the one hand, given all the above parameters, the Writing Program encourages students to have exposure to as many genres as is possible. We encourage you to work with your adviser in determining the college-wide requirements when you are contemplating taking a workshop. On the other hand, we wish for you to have proficiency in a single creative genre by your senior year.

9. Double Major: Can I major in Writing and some subject other than Literature?

We strongly encourage students to take the senior project as an opportunity to go deeply into one idea, one medium, one field of reference. Sometimes doing two projects amounts to doing none. As your senior project gives you the opportunity for complete absorption in a creative and intellectual endeavor, you will be cheating yourself if you choose to do more than one senior project. On the other hand, there are exceptional cases in which exceptional students have successfully carried off two separate projects – so it’s theoretically possible. You can, of course, have a virtual minor in Written Arts or in some other field, which will be reflected in your choice of courses during your time as an undergraduate at Bard.

10. Permission for the Senior Project in Written Arts: Do I automatically have the right to do a Written Arts project in my senior year?

No. In the end of your junior year, you will be informed of a deadline, usually the week after spring break, by which time you must request the chance to do a Written Arts senior project. Most commonly, the way in which you will request permission will go as follows:

You will be asked to write your name, contact details, and the name and genre of your project on a list outside the Program Directors' offices in the first floor of Hobson.

Should your work, in the spring semester of your junior year, not be known to the members of the Written Arts Committee, you will at that point be asked to submit a writing sample in your desired genre.

The Written Arts Committee wishes to know that students are capable of working hard and producing quality work. In every case, it will evaluate whether or not students have earned the right to attempt a senior project in Written Arts. Evaluators may be any two Written Arts teachers who have worked with a student or any two faculty members who have seen a sample of the student's work.

11. As a writer, why might I choose instead to major in Literature and not Written Arts?

If you see yourself as likely to learn through the careful study of literature, you may profit as a writer and reader by staying in Literature. Further, if you imagine yourself pursuing a PhD at some point, you may find yourself approaching literature via the path of criticism, with your writing as an ancillary pursuit.

12. Post-graduate life: What kind of job can I get after I graduate?

Most vocations which look kindly upon a literature degree will also tend to deem a writing degree useful. For example: advertising, journalism, publishing, literary agencies, even business. You may go on to get a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Written Arts, or you may choose to go to law schools, which look favorably on candidates gifted in writing.

13. Courses while at Bard: What kind of literature courses should I take?

The Writing Program places a high value on your taking courses that involve both close reading and an in-depth engagement with certain historical periods.

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Upcoming Events

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Monday, November 3, 2014

The Innovative Contemporary Fiction Reading Series Presents a Reading by Julia Elliott

Julia Elliott, author of the fiction collection The Wilds (Tin House Books), reads from her work. Introduced by Bradford Morrow, the reading will be followed by Q&A. Free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations required.

At an obscure South Carolina nursing home, a lost world reemerges as a disabled elderly woman undergoes newfangled brain-restoration procedures and begins to explore her environment with the assistance of strap-on robot legs. At a deluxe medical spa on a nameless Caribbean island, a middle-aged woman hopes to revitalize her fading youth with grotesque rejuvenating therapies that combine cutting-edge medical technologies with holistic approaches and the pseudo-religious dogma of Zen-infused self-help. And in a rinky-dink mill town, an adolescent girl is unexpectedly inspired by the ravings and miraculous levitation of her fundamentalist friend’s weird grandmother. These are only a few of the scenarios readers encounter in Julia Elliott’s debut collection, The Wilds. In these genre-bending stories, teetering between the ridiculous and the sublime, Elliott’s language-driven fiction uses outlandish tropes to capture poignant moments in her humble characters’ lives. Without abandoning the tenets of classic storytelling, Elliott revels in lush lyricism, dark humor, and experimental play.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Innovative Contemporary Fiction Reading Series Presents a Reading by Steven Millhauser

Steven Millhauser, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Martin Dressler and such celebrated books as Edwin Mullhouse, In the Penny Arcade, The Knife Thrower, and, most recently, We Others, reads from his work. Introduced by Bradford Morrow, the reading will be followed by Q&A. Free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations required.

“[We Others is] powerful . . . A book of astonishingly beautiful and moving stories by one of America’s finest and most original writers. . . . Millhauser has a fascination with moments in our lives when something inexplicable happens, when our reality collides with some other reality, while the world we had taken for granted up to that moment turns strange, and even familiar things cease to be themselves, stripping us in the process of our identities, and leaving in their place something that has no name. . . . The shock of the real, along with the shock of something that transcends it, is what he wants us to experience. Millhauser is one of the most imaginative writers we have, capable of pure invention. . . . Sublime.” —Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Alumni/ae and Student Poetry Reading

Established poets who studied at Bard return to campus to read with the up and coming stars of the Written Arts department. The event is open to the public, and all are welcome.

Part of a series of poetry events on campus sponsored by Written Arts and the Office of Alumni/ae Affairs.