Hearing Voices: a Master Class in Literary Journalism (LIT4395.01)

Jia Tolentino

Voice, in writing, goes beyond style and tone to something like identity; at best, a writer’s voice is a direct conduit to their exact nature—their mind, their individuality, their blind spots, their soul. In this course, we’ll learn to hear voices more clearly. We’ll analyze what animates the work of writers like Patricia Lockwood, Ellen Willis, Greg Tate, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Janet Malcolm, Choire Sicha, Ocean Vuong, Caity Weaver, and Rebecca Solnit; we’ll move through different genres of literary journalism, from profiles to personal essays to criticism to less-traditional formats like the newsletter, the advice column, and the stunt piece. Through regular craft exercises and longer assignments, we’ll also work to listen more closely to the voices around us, and to understand our own voices as flexible instruments: we’ll conduct and edit interviews, do some everyday reporting, try our hand at arts criticism, and respond to experimental prompts. In doing this, we’ll put ourselves in service to larger questions about what voice does: how it inflects the substance it’s conveying, how it can convince and conceal, how it has its own unspoken purposes. We’ll push towards an understanding of what makes a writer’s voice feel vivid and distinct and honest; we’ll also work to distinguish a writer’s voice from their identity, examining how a voice can alter, shift, or clarify the “I.”

Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Interested students should submit a writing sample via this form by November 24, 2023. Students will be notified of acceptance into this class by November 29, 2023. Students should select Ben Anastas from the faculty email on the form.
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: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Literature , New Courses , Updates