Writing a Life (LIT4510.01) (time change as of 11/11/2022)

Jonas Hassen Khemiri

In this course, we will move chronologically through a life, from childhood to old age, with the help of sixteen different writers. We will read broadly (novels, plays, short stories) and focus on one key question at every life stage. As kids, we will investigate imperfect narrative voices and strategic silences. As teenagers, we will explore writing about politics with humor, and about violence with heart. When we are in our twenties, we will focus on forbidden love and jealousy, friendship and revenge. In our middle age, we will examine if it’s possible to write fiction about family and economics without turning into accountants or demagogues. Towards the end of the class, we will focus on memory: the importance of testifying, the value of forgetting, and the art of dying. And when our class/life is over, we will have thirteen literary tools that we can use in the future to create our most authentic work as writers. The authors in this class will include Svetlana Alexievich, James Baldwin, Caryl Churchill, Marguerite Duras, Édouard Louis, Ghassan Kanafani, Selma Lagerlöf, and Leo Tolstoy.


Learning Outcomes:
We will dissect novels. plays and short stories with the ambition to understand how they function and why they move us (or not).
The texts will be discussed in detail and students will prepare reading notes.
Students will write critical reflections and share them in class.
There will be weekly in-class writing exercises, with prompts.


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students must submit a paragraph explaining their interest in this class, along with a writing sample (either a critical paper or a piece of creative work at least 5 pp. long), via this form, by November 17. Students will be notified of acceptance into the class on November 22.
Corequisites: Students are required to attend all Literature Evenings, Bennington Translates, and Poetry at Bennington events this term, commonly held at 7pm on most Wednesday evenings.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
W 2:10PM - 5:50PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Literature , Four Credit , Updates , 4000 , Fully In-Person
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