New School News

The Never-Ending Story: Creative Writing at The New School Marks Eight Decades

Robert Polito, founding and current director of the master's program in creative writing.

When Manhattan essayist and critic Gorham Munson proposed to teach a creative writing workshop at The New School in 1931, he did it on a lark. My workshop course in writing was an experiment,, Munson wrote in his 1949 book, The Written Word. I planned to give it only once, but it met with unexpected popularity and I was urged to repeat it; I have repeated it ever since to registrations believed to be the largest for a writing course ever given in New York City.,

Eight decades later, The New School boasts one of the nation’s most influential master’s programs in creative writing, turning out some of the most interesting emerging writers of our time and contributing greatly to the experimental spirit of New York’s Downtown, literary scene. Although the New School’s MFA degree dates back only to 1996, this program is a direct descendant of Munson’s workshop. That’s why the MFA program is spearheading the 2011’2012 year-long celebration, 80 Years of Writing at The New School.

When we created the MFA, one of our goals was to touch base with this powerful professional tradition of writing,, says poet, biographer, and founding director Robert Polito. If you studied writing and literature at The New School in the early 1960s, your instructors were Robert Lowell, Marguerite Young, Frank O’Hara, Kay Boyle, and Amiri Baraka. We assembled a faculty of established and emerging writers inspired by this brilliant legacy.,

The current high-profile faculty includes, novelist Helen Schulman, essayist Phillip Lopate, memoirist and children’s author Hettie Jones, poet and biographer Honor Moore, David Lehman, editor of the annual Best American Poetry anthology, and Polito, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner for Savage Art, his biography of crime novelist Jim Thompson. The Writing Program has also cultivated ongoing partnerships with many leading U.S. literary organizations: PEN, Cave Canem, the National Book Foundation, the Poetry Society of America, the Academy of American Poets, and Villa-Gillet all regularly bring events and speakers to The New School.

We embrace our role as an historic community resource, especially as our community moves beyond 12th Street to include writers and readers across the city, America, and increasingly the world,, says Polito. Literary partnerships are a crucial aspect of that outreach, service, and cultural engagement.,

Underscoring its connection to the writer’s life in New York, the MFA program is marking its anniversary year with a full roster of public readings, lectures, and discussions with luminaries like philosopher Judith Butler, novelist Dana Spiotta, poet Ben Lerner, cultural critic Greil Marcus, and many more. As it has for many year, this November 15 The New School will host a reading by all the nominees for the 2011 National Book Awards. To learn more about this and other events, visit the complete Writing Events Calendar.

If getting an inside scoop on who’s next in writing is more your taste, check out the program’s alumni web page, or visit Barnes and Noble for copies of the Writing Program’s two literary magazines, graduate journal LIT and the award-winning undergraduate 12th Street.

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