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 Languages, Cultures, and Literature; and Written Arts.)

Moderating into the Written Arts Program (that is, majoring in it) is Moderating into the Division of Languages & Literature as well. However, each program within the Division of Languages & Literature has its own specific Moderation requirements—see Moderation for information relating specifically to 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, and the past and current literary landscapes. Writing so pursued then becomes part of a humanist education, in which the private effort of the writer addresses and becomes part of the world's discourse. We expect that our writers are also passionate readers.

The Program is staffed exclusively by distinguished writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction who emphasize both innovative, experimental work and work that foregrounds the conventions of writing. Intellectual stress is placed on literary theory and literary history, making students 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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Written Arts Workshops:
How and when to apply
Workshop acceptances and rejections
Applying to or taking more than one workshop in a semester
Taking workshops in various genres
Workshop grading


Written Arts workshops are offered in the genres of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction (the last of which may at times intersect with journalism or reportage). The workshops offered in a given semester may be found in the online course catalog.

While the paradigm of the workshop is a communal experience in which all participants produce work for critique by the group, the particular contours of each pedagogical approach will vary widely depending on the instructor and the class. Thus, one Written Arts workshop might involve an extensive syllabus of outside readings; another might integrate collaborative and prompt-based work; a third might require participants to produce independent creative work as well as written critiques.

The vast majority of Written Arts workshops require portfolio submission for admission.

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Those workshops requiring portfolio submissions are identified as such in the course catalog. These portfolios generally must be submitted to the workshop instructor(s) approximately ten days before registration begins. Registration occurs toward the end of each semester (or, for first-year students entering their first semester at Bard, at the end of L&T, following a mandatory informational session for all interested first-years). You will receive a campuswide email from the Registrar announcing the deadline for submitting Written Arts portfolios. The deadline will apply to all workshops for the upcoming semester.

For Fall 2015 workshops, the deadline for submitting your materials to the appropriate box(es) in the downstairs lounge of Shafer House is Tuesday, April 28th, 5:00 p.m.

Portfolios must be in hard copy and stapled. They must have a cover page with the writer's complete name, email address, phone number, and expected graduation date. If you are applying to more than one workshop within a given semester, you must list those workshops on the cover page of each portfolio submission and state your first choice. Portfolios must be delivered by hand during business hours to the designated boxes in the downstairs lounge of Shafer House.

Portfolio submissions for workshops in all genres should be no fewer than five and no more than twenty pages in length. For fiction and nonfiction, the manuscript must be double spaced. The writing in the portfolio should be in the genre of the workshop to which you are applying. In other words, for a fiction workshop, submit a portfolio of fiction. The quality of the work you submit is far more important than the length of the portfolio.

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All applicants will be notified whether or not they have been accepted to the workshops for which they applied (or whether, in certain cases, they may have been waitlisted) via email, to the email address provided on the cover page of the portfolio submission. The email notifications will be sent the night prior to the opening of campuswide registration, at the latest. Lists of accepted students will also be posted in Shafer House.

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You are permitted to apply simultaneously for multiple workshops of any level and/or genre within a given semester. However, if you place into more than one workshop, you or the instructor must choose among them. The Program does not allow students to take two or more workshops concurrently. We think workshops are exceedingly valuable and most of our Written Arts students have taken several by the time they graduate, either in a single genre or multiple genres; but we firmly believe that the content of one's creative work must draw from the entire palette of liberal-arts education. We do not wish to cultivate "workshop junkies."

If you are applying to more than one workshop within a given semester, you must list those workshops on the cover page of each portfolio submission and state your first choice.

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The Written Arts Program encourages students to practice their creative work in as many genres as they feel inspired to sample, given that a fiction writer is enriched by close study of poetry and vice versa, etc. However, a Written Arts student should be mindful that permission to embark on a creative Senior Project will be dependent upon demonstrated proficiency in the genre of the intended Project. In addition, we encourage you to work with your adviser in determining the collegewide requirements when you are contemplating taking a workshop.
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In general, workshop attendees are graded through a Pass/Fail/Honors system, with Honors being the rare grade awarded to those who have excelled in every aspect of the workshop.

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Written Arts Moderation:
Required Moderation materials
Pre-Moderation coursework
Moderation request form


The information below relates specifically to Moderating into the Written Arts Program. For a full overview of Moderation at Bard, please see and

Approximately midway through the spring semester of your Sophomore year, the Registrar will email you with a deadline for submitting the two short reflective essays that are required for Moderation. Only those two reflective essays should be submitted to the Registrar.

The other required Moderation materials, a creative portfolio and an analytic paper, have later submission deadlines and do not go to the Registrar. Copies of those should be submitted directly to each individual member of your board along with additional copies of the two short reflective essays. (See Moderation Materials.)

Around the same time that you receive the Registrar's email with the deadline for submission of the short reflective essays, you will also receive an email from the Written Arts Program or the Division of Languages and Literature letting you know the deadline for submitting the online Moderation request form and providing you with a link to that form. Your Moderation board will then be centrally scheduled by the Program and Division.

On the online Moderation request form you may name up to three faculty members you would like to have on your Moderation board, and the Program will attempt to accommodate one or more of those requests. Once your board members have been assigned and the time and date of your board are scheduled, you will be notified via email.

At the conclusion of your Moderation board, you will be told whether you have passed, failed, or been deferred. In the latter case, you may attempt to remoderate into Written Arts at a later time with the same board members if you have a substantially improved portfolio. Even after Moderating successfully, however, all Written Arts majors will need to take the additional step of applying for permission to do a creative Senior Project. This permission procedure occurs at the end of Junior year. Students who have not fulfilled the promise shown at Moderation may be denied permission to do a Written Arts Senior Project.

Students often have intersecting interests in Literature and Written Arts; for this reason, the two programs are closely allied within the Division of Languages & Literature. Those who wish to pursue a PhD after graduation or whose own creative work would most benefit from immersion in a wide range of reading, close analysis, and critical theory may choose to do a Senior Project in Literature instead. Your adviser, professors, and Moderation board will guide you toward evaluating the best path.

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Students Moderating into Written Arts must submit a creative portfolio, two reflective essays, and an analytic essay to each of their Moderation board members.

You will submit a portfolio of approximately ten pages, but no more than twenty pages, of original writing in your chosen genre.

For poetry, this may be one long poem or a collection of shorter poems.

For fiction, this may be a single story, an excerpt from a longer work, or several smaller, self-contained pieces.

For creative nonfiction, you should not submit an analytic essay. Please also note that memoir is discouraged. As above, the creative nonfiction may be a single piece, an excerpt, or a portfolio of shorter writings.

Whatever form your portfolio takes, it should represent your most mature, skilled, imaginative writing: your most accomplished creative work to date. The content of your portfolio can be something you produced in a Written Arts workshop; however, we strongly advise you to revise it in the spirit of leading with your best writing.

You may also choose to submit hybrid work that blends or complicates genres; students who follow this path should discuss the Moderation sample with their advisers or contact the Program Coordinator.

You will submit the two short essays outlined in the college-wide Moderation requirements, reflecting on your past and future at Bard and beyond.

As is the case with all Moderations in the Languages and Literature Division, you must include a strong ten-page analytic essay you have written for one of your literature sequence courses. If you do not have a sufficiently strong essay from one of these courses, you may, if granted the consent of your adviser, submit an essay from another literature course. As with your creative portfolio, it is very much in your interest to revise this paper fully before submitting it for Moderation.

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In order to Moderate into Written Arts, you must have fulfilled course requirements in literature, writing workshops, and a foreign language.


Five courses in the Division of Languages and Literature are required to Moderate. 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 five courses, one must be an Interpretation of Literature course (LIT 103) and one 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).

All courses in the Division of Languages and Literature, including those in foreign languages and writing, may be used to meet the five-course requirement.  For Written Arts Moderation, a maximum of two workshops may be so counted.


Succesful completion of a writing workshop—not merely a passing grade, but truly outstanding work—is required in order to Moderate into Written Arts.

Even if you do not get into a workshop as a first-year student; your first workshop experience could come as late as sophomore year; and, with all other academic factors working for you, you could still be recommended for Moderation into the Written Arts Program. However, most aspirants to a Written Arts major do attempt to place into a workshop during their first year. If you are repeatedly denied entry into workshops, this may be an indication that you are not ideally suited for this major.


In order to fulfill the Moderation language requirement in the most traditional method, you must have taken or currently be enrolled in one college-level course in the language. This means that you can study the language at an accredited site other than Bard, or that you can use your Advanced Placement study as a substitute.

The second, less common possibility requires that you pass an exam in which you demonstrate reading and/or speaking competence in a foreign language. (Utter fluency is not required; the wish of the Program is to ensure is that all our majors have the ability to think outside the box of English.) In order to take the proficiency exam, you must contact the Written Arts Program Coordinator.

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The online request form for Written Arts Moderation, on which you may name up to three faculty members you would ideally like to have on your Moderation board, must be completed before April 6, 2015, in order to attempt to Moderate into Written Arts in Spring 2015. Fill out the form here.

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Senior Projects

The information below relates specifically to Senior Projects in the Written Arts Program. For a full overview of the Senior Project at Bard, please see

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 seventy to two hundred pages.

The Senior Project must be composed entirely during the Project year. It may not comprise any work composed during a workshop or any previous course. (We understand fully that the artistic process involves the gestation of work over a long period of time; therefore, students who wish to substantially revise and expand writing from a workshop may seek special permission to do so in their Senior Projects from their Project advisers.)

At the end of Junior year, those students who have Moderated into Written Arts and who do still wish to pursue a Senior Project in Written Arts must apply to, and receive explicit permission from, the writing faculty.

The first step in this permission process will be an email sent to all Moderated students, prompting them to submit the online permission form: a written proposal for the Project and their top choices for a Project adviser. Permission for the Project will be granted by a committee comprised of members of the Written Arts faculty.

The committee will strive to match you with the appropriate Senior Project adviser, taking into account your preferences; and will notify you of your Project adviser via email prior to the start of the first semester of your Senior year.

Passing Moderation does not guarantee permission to do a creative Senior Project. Some Moderated students may be asked to submit a writing sample for final Senior Project approval in the second semester of Junior year.

Senior Projects are due three weeks prior to the last day of classes. This deadline is strictly enforced. Copies must be submitted to the college and individually to each faculty member assigned to your Senior Project Board. You will receive reminders from the college and the Program regarding the deadline, Project submission procedures, and Project formatting and binding.

Every student who undertakes a Senior Project in Written Arts will be required to attend the weekly Written Arts Senior Colloquium. The purpose of Colloquium is to give students the tools to complete a creative Project successfully, to provide the collaborative experience of a workshop and of exchange with their peers, and to help prepare students for life after Bard through visits from outside speakers—writers, editors, alumni/ae, etc.—as well as Program faculty.
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Mary Caponegro
Robert Kelly


Benjamin Hale

Michael Ives
Ann Lauterbach
Joseph O'Neill
Susan Fox Rogers
Mona Simpson
Porochista Khakpour


Celia Bland
Ian Buruma
Anne Carson
Teju Cole
Neil Gaiman
Jeff Katz
Verlyn Klinkenborg
Norman Manea
Wyatt Mason
Daniel Mendelsohn
Chiori Miyagawa
Bradford Morrow
Francine Prose
Luc Sante
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Written Arts FAQ:
The Written Arts aesthetic
Transferring to Bard from another institution
Double majors
Postgraduate life

The Written Arts aesthetic:
What kind of writing does Bard Written Arts encourage?

We expect that students who pursue a Written Arts major at Bard will continually challenge their own proclivities and levels of comfort with regard to the form, style, content, and language of their work: that they will take risks and will not be wedded to the habitual. One of the distinctions of our Program is that a number of our faculty tend to prioritize innovation in their own work.

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Transferring to Bard from another institution:
As a transfer, what do I need to know about the Written Arts major and workshops?

If you intend to transfer to Bard and hope to place into a workshop the first semester you are here, you will be required to submit a sample of your creative work in whatever genre you intend to explore. This submission portfolio should be included with your admission materials to the Admissions Office. Workshop submissions are generally collected ten days to two weeks prior to the opening of online registration toward the end of each semester. Placement is not guaranteed; a transfer student should not assume immediate entry into a workshop.

Students who transfer to Bard and hope to major in Written Arts are responsible for fulfilling all the standard Moderation requirements. In rare cases, courses taken at your prior institution may be permitted to substitute for these. However, it is unlikely that workshops taken elsewhere will be counted as official substitutes. Given that a transfer student must follow an accelerated track toward the Senior Project, the quality of your creative work must already be demonstrably high at the time of your acceptance to Bard if you wish to pursue a Written Arts major.

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Double major:
Can I major in Written Arts and some subject other than Literature?

Because Bard demands that students draw widely from all disciplines, it is perfectly reasonable that in certain cases students may elect to concentrate in more than one field. However, since Bard requires every student to complete a Senior Project, the demands of carrying a double major are more strenuous than at other institutions. 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 Senior Projects may result in a diluted version of each.On the other hand, there are exceptions: Certain highly motivated and high-achieving students have successfully undertaken two separate Projects—but be advised that this would entail a senior year devoted to almost exclusively independent work.

Even if you are not a Written Arts major, you can still take as many workshops as you can place into; conversely, many other programs also allow unofficial concentrations.

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Post-graduate life:
What kind of job can I get after I graduate with a degree in Written Arts?

Our graduates have found themselves in the following fields: publishing (editorial work, literary agencies, etc.), journalism, the nonprofit sector, education, marketing, library sciences, business administration, the law, and so on. Many go on to study writing at the graduate level (for example, by pursuing an MFA).

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Location & Contact Information

The Written Arts Program is located in Shafer House on south campus, at the Annandale Triangle just west of the 9G/Kelly Road light.

Most but not all Written Arts faculty members have their offices in Shafer House. To contact Written Arts faculty, you may search the Bard Phonebook or consult our faculty links.

For current and prospective students with questions about the Written Arts Program, we strongly recommend that you review the information on this website as the first step in seeking information. All questions not answered here may be addressed to the Written Arts Program Coordinator, Micaela Morrissette, at or (845) 758-7054.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Writing Workshop at the Tivoli Library

A free support group and workshop for writers of any kind. Snacks, feedback, advice, solidarity. The writing group at the Tivoli Library meets the fourth Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. All are welcome to show up and discuss the challenges and successes they're facing in their work with others.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Reading by Norman Rush

The National Book Award winner and author of Whites, Mating, Mortals, and Subtle Bodies reads from his work. Introduced by Mona Simpson, this reading is free and open to the public. Books will be available for sale and signing from Oblong Books & Music.

Subtle Bodies seems like one of the few novels written for grown-up people. Rush’s characters want to fall in love, to laugh and enjoy themselves. Their quirks, opinions, compulsions, and the cruel or considerate ways in which they treat their rivals and allies are all aspects of the personalities that keep us engrossed—along with the clarity and precision of Rush’s sentences, the freshness of his observations, and our awareness that we are reading something quite rare: a remarkably nonjudgmental novel about people who are perpetually and often harshly judging themselves and one another.” —Francine Prose, The New York Review of Books

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Reading by Joyce Carol Oates

The National Book Award winner, two-time Pulitzer nominee, and widely acclaimed fiction writer and essayist reads from her work. Introduced by Bradford Morrow and followed by a Q&A, this event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations required.

Praise for Lovely, Dark, Deep

“Oates, one of few writers who achieves excellence in both the novel and the short story, has more than two dozen story collections to her name and she continues to inject new, ambushing power into the form. Oates’ stories seethe and blaze.” —Booklist

“With every new book Oates proves anew that she is perhaps our greatest contemporary American writer.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

Praise for Carthage

“Knotted, tense, digressive and brilliant.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Joyce Carol Oates has outdone herself.” —NPR

“Brilliant … amazing. A compassionate tenderness suffuses the final sections of the book, as palpable as the cold irony with which the book begins. It’s a breathtaking effect.” —Washington Post

Praise for Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong

“An extraordinarily vivid depiction of lives gone awry ... A creepy, macabre thrill from start to finish. Terrific stuff.” —Independent

“Oates at her best—spare, swift, beautifully observed and quietly lethal.”—Times

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Reading by Brian Evenson

The celebrated and controversial author of Altmann's TongueThe Wavering Knife, The Open Curtain, Last Days, Windeye, and other books reads from his work. Introduced by Bradford Morrow and followed by a Q&A, this event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations required.

"[Brian Evenson's stories] will thrill, unsettle, and captivate. Like lanterns in dark rooms, paper boats carried down on subterranean waters, they lead the reader into mysterious and perilous territory. Read at your own risk."—Kelly Link

"Brian Evenson is one of the treasures of American story writing, a true successor both to the generation of Coover, Barthelme, Hawkes and Co., but also to Edgar Allan Poe." Jonathan Lethem

"There is not a more intense, prolific, or apocalyptic writer of fiction in America than Brian Evenson." —George Saunders

A translator and literary theorist, BRIAN EVENSON is best known as the author of a dozen books that explore the horror genre through a sophisticated literary lens, frequently drawing on his personal history with the Mormon church. Most recently, he has published the fiction collection Windeye and the novel Immobility, both of which were finalists for a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Last Days won the American Library Association's award for best horror novel, The Open Curtain was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an International Horror Guild Award, and The Wavering Knife won the IHG Award for best story collection.