9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Our 2021 Writer as Reader series will be held online.
October 1, 2021 Workshop Offerings
Edith Wharton's Two New Yorks
One hundred years ago, Edith Wharton received the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence, her frequently-taught novel of Gilded Age New York. The prize secured Wharton’s place as one of the most critically acclaimed and highest grossing writers of her time, and ensconced Wharton as the novelist of the leisure classes. This workshop aims to tell a fuller story about Wharton’s social, cultural, and stylistic concerns. We will read The Age of Innocence alongside her lesser-known novella, Bunner Sisters, a bleak tale of decline set among working-class immigrants on the Lower East Side. Working collaboratively, we will contrast the two texts’ views of women’s lives and two dramatically different New Yorks, modeling ways to engage students in the creative interpretation of archival materials, and offering opportunities to develop interdisciplinary assignments. This workshop is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University.
Texts: Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence; Edith Wharton, Bunner Sisters.
(Waitlist Only) Othello and American Moor: Studying Shakespeare in a Racialized America
This workshop is full but you can still register to be added to the waitlist.
Nor set down aught in malice.” -- Othello, William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s Othello, often taught as a “classic” text dealing with issues of race and gender, brings with it a myriad of questions we must confront as educators. How do race and gender affect our experience of a text and how we embody, interpret, perform, and receive it? How do we come to an awareness of our own racialized gaze, and what is the effect of this realization? How do the power structures of our classrooms, theatres, and society intersect? In this workshop, we’ll use writing and thinking practices to investigate the conversation between Othello and Keith Hamilton Cobb’s play, American Moor, which gives voice to an African American actor auditioning for the role of Othello for a white director, raising urgent questions about race, power, language, performance, and perspective. Simultaneously, we’ll consider our own identities and how they affect our reading of Shakespeare, our students, and our world.
Texts: William Shakespeare, Othello; Keith Hamilton Cobb, American Moor
“I would not paint — a picture —”: Emily Dickinson’s Visual Poetics
How should a poem be read—horizontally, vertically, or upside down? Emily Dickinson’s practice of including variants in the margins of her fair copy manuscripts broadens the boundaries of the printed page. It is now common to find scholarly fascination in her brazen originality, and yet what would it mean to approach her poetry as a visual space with moving boundaries and endless mutability? This workshop will write-to-read Dickinson’s art as a visual experience, in a playful and pictorial space where “possibility” truly reigns. We will give special focus to Fascicle 25, which is itself a kind of spiritual meditation on beauty—as well as the 2013 facsimiles of her work in The Gorgeous Nothings. Working collaboratively we will put Dickinson’s poetry in conversation with visual art by Judy Chicago, Lesley Dill, and Annie Leibovitz, and with selections from the Apple TV series Dickinson. Writing to Learn practices will help us push the boundaries of the margins on the page, using the process of reflection to find visual delight in this elusive master.
Texts: Emily Dickinson, Fascicle 25; excerpts from Emily Dickinson, The Gorgeous Nothings (compiled by Jen Bervin and Marta L. Werner)
“Vulnerable to Foreign Ways of Seeing and Thinking”: James Baldwin's “Sonny's Blues” and Gloria Anzaldúa's “La Conciencia de la Mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness”
In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” two estranged brothers -- Black men living in 1950s Harlem -- confront the inescapability of suffering and ultimately discover some sort of salvation in the blues. Gloria Anzaldúa's essay examines the pernicious effects of the mind’s tendency to think in binaries, or dualities, in a far-reaching essay that grapples with white supremacy, political orthodoxy, toxic masculinity, and linguistic hegemony. Both authors argue that liberation (in all senses of the word) is possible and will only arise through a fundamental shift in our ideas about, and awareness of, our own minds, and the world around us. While the two make an unlikely pair, Anzaldúa's text seems almost a codebook for Baldwin’s, providing a terminology to understand what the two brothers experience, in both the complexities of familial relationships and the spontaneity of jazz music, as they “shift out of habitual formations,” and embrace “a more whole perspective, one that includes rather than excludes.” Working collaboratively, we will write to learn how to bring ideals of community and flexibility more fully into our classrooms and into our own lives.
Texts: James Baldwin, "Sonny's Blues"; Gloria Anzaldúa, "La Conciencia de la Mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness" (from Borderlands/La Frontera).
“Who Will Take Up the Body?”: Sara Uribe’s Antígona González Reimagines Antigone within Today’s Global Politics
In Sara Uribe’s reimaging of Sophocles’ ancient Greek tragedy, there is no longer just one Antigone but many, all searching for the bodies of their loved ones. These multiple Antígonas struggle against a ruling government that will not admit that there are bodies to be buried, let alone allow formal burials to take place. In this haunting and poetic work, the figure of Polynices is reimagined as one among thousands who have been marginalized and disappeared amid the drug wars and deadly economic and immigration policies in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Antígona’s recurring question “Will you join me in taking up the body?” is aimed not only at the other characters but also, implicitly, at the reader. Using various writing-to-read practices, this workshop will use Uribe’s text to explore how to bring alive the ethical questions of Antigone for our students and motivate them to consider its contemporary implications for grief, justice, and collective action. Throughout the day, we will consider ways to invite our students to powerfully reimagine, even rewrite, existing texts as a means of shedding light on their most urgent questions and concerns.
Texts: Sara Uribe, Antígona González (trans. John Pleucker); Sophocles, Antigone
Reading Climate, Writing Change: Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac’s The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis
Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, a dystopian novel, confronts entwined environmental and economic crises in a world marked by extreme poverty, racism, walls that constrain movement, climate refugees, hurricanes, fire, and food and water scarcity. Forced to flee when her home is destroyed and her family killed, protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina embarks on a journey in an attempt to survive and build a new, transformed world. In The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, likewise ask us to think creatively and take action to transform a world facing a climate emergency. We will use writing and thinking practices to explore how the texts educate us about ecological and climate crises, including aspects such as extreme weather, natural disasters, threatened species, cultural and biodiversity, and geographic displacement. Finally, taking cues from the authors we read, we will explore how imagination can help us face these daunting issues. Participants will gain strategies for pairing critical and imaginative analyses of the texts to support students learning about the climate crisis while empowering them to envision a way forward.
Texts: Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower; Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis
Science and Disenchantment: Max Weber’s “Science as Vocation” and the Role of Science in Ethical Life
This workshop will run from 9 am to 3:30 pm, Central European Time. Science, declares Max Weber in his address “Science as a Vocation,” delivered in 1917 to students at the University of Munich, works in service of “self-clarification and knowledge of interrelated facts.” Science is not, he goes on, “the gift of grace of seers and prophets dispensing sacred values and revelations, nor does it partake of the contemplation … about the meaning of the universe.” In this celebrated essay, Weber maintains that there is an unbridgeable gap not only between religion and science, but also between politics and science. Approvingly quoting Leo Tolstoy, Weber notes that “science gives no answer to our question, the only question important for us: ‘What shall we do and how shall we live?’” This workshop will engage in close reading and in imaginative dialogue with Weber’s classic essay in order to reflect on the role of science in contemporary life. We will then turn to philosophers who give us resources to question Weber’s image of science as a fundamentally rational and value-neutral enterprise, drawing on recent work in the philosophy of science. Our work together will invite us to revisit Tolstoy’s allegation and its central moral dilemmas—what shall we do and how shall we live—and ask how science might help us grapple with these fundamental questions.
Texts: Max Weber, “Science as Vocation”
These workshops were closed for the 2021 series. They may return next year!
CLOSED - Diving Into The Wreck: Daniel Defoe, Adrienne Rich, and J.M. Coetzee
Marxist critic Ian Watt argues that Robinson Crusoe was one of the central myths of Western modernity—indeed, a foundational myth of modern capitalism. In the late 20th century, that myth of the self-made man, who finds himself on an island, builds a little kingdom, and names and “civilizes” his man Friday, was radically recast by South African novelist, J. M. Coetzee. In its interrogation of the legend, Coetzee’s Foe raises questions about race, gender, narrative, and the very nature of language. Daniel Defoe becomes a character, Crusoe’s story is told by a woman, and Friday is transformed into an African slave who has been rendered mysteriously speechless. In this workshop, we will use a variety of writing and performance practices not only to get inside of Coetzee’s fascinating work but also to put it in conversation with poetry by Adrienne Rich and excerpts from The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.
CLOSED - “It’s Getting Started That’s the Puzzle”: Kelly Reichardt, First Cow, and telling American stories
Celebrated filmmaker (and Bard professor) Kelly Reichardt has made a career out of exploring timely issues, from economic precarity to climate activism to the sometimes excruciating ways American women navigate the men in their lives. She has dramatized American history with a fresh eye for detail and an interest in marginalized characters and unfamiliar perspectives. In this workshop we will watch Reichardt’s First Cow (called “an interrogation of foundational Americana” set in mid-19th century Oregon Territory) in advance of the workshop, and during the workshop screen clips of her other films, read relevant historical documents, and consider related films of the moment (including Minari and Nomadland). We will explore how to teach students a sophisticated skill: considering the mind of a creator across their work, framed in a variety of meaningful and evocative contexts. We will also consider what it means to center film in the classroom, and model what writing in relation to film might look like for our students and ourselves.
CLOSED - The Lavender Scare: Mid-century Fictions and Fears
In the decade following the end of World War II, many Americans—including government employees at every level—lost their jobs and social standing due to the fact or belief that they were homosexual. What other fears—both apparent and submerged—shaped US culture and politics during the so-called Red Scare/McCarthy Era? Why was this period, so prosperous and triumphant, steeped in fear? This workshop will use writing-to-learn practices to examine documents related to the "Lavender Scare", including excerpts from David Johnson’s book of that name, and Point of Order, Emile de Antonio's seminal 1964 documentary on the Army-McCarthy hearings, and documents from the Black freedom struggle and official civil defense information. Working together, we will sharpen our picture of the social, political, and cultural changes that shaped mid-century fictions and fears.
November 5, 2021 Workshop Offerings
Trouble in Paradise: Visions of Black Utopia & Despair in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Marvel's Black Panther
This workshop explores the tension between worldmaking and world reckoning in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Marvel Comics Black Panther. Working together, we will explore the town of Eatonville, Hurston’s all-Black “ideal” community, and what it offers Janey, and how it fails her. We will ask, what happens when we try to think about Eatonville as a utopia? If utopia is actually no place, what similarities and differences does Eatonville have with Janey’s “real world” or with real places? We will then turn to Wakanda, Black Panther’s imagining of a perfect all-Black world, and examine the opportunities and problems that erupt from its exclusivity. Contextualizing these stories within the history of utopic writing and Black speculative fiction, we will write to learn what changes when we consider Their Eyes Were Watching God as a text that rethinks Black utopias? We will model practices for visualizing and annotating images as key reading practices, as well as imagining cross-historical dialogue as a strategy for discovering relevance, making textual connections, and considering contexts.
Texts: Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Black Panther, Ryan Coogler, director, Marvel Studios, 2018
Issues in Translation: Poems that Prevail against Erasure
In this workshop, we will model IWT practices that can help students engage with poetry in translation. Reading I Even Regret Night, a groundbreaking translation of folksongs by Lalbihari Sharma, we will consider how a translator can preserve literary works. Published in India in 1916 and written in the dialect of Sharma’s village, this songbook is a rare first-person account by an indentured servant on a sugar plantation in British Guyana. We will write to read Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb” and consider both its historical moment and the backlash that occurred when a white translator was chosen to create a Dutch version of the poem. These texts will be put in conversation with Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho as we consider how poems survive and how a translator makes visible new aspects of a poem. Ultimately, we will explore collaborative teaching strategies that ask: whose words are preserved and whose are—at least for a time—forgotten?
Texts: Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”; excerpts from Lalbihari Sharma, I Even Regret Night, (trans. Rajiv Mohabir); and Sappho, If Not, Winter (trans. Anne Carson)
Walt Whitman: Looking, Listing, Vegetating
In this workshop, we will write to learn the text, context, and legacy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, considering the writer as witness/observer, list-maker, and as telegraph between the present and the past. We’ll explore images that contextualize the aesthetic of Whitman’s first edition--lush with greenery and words becoming plants--in relation to other 19th-century visual and verbal depictions of plant-life. We’ll investigate the possibilities of a “poetics of witness” in both Whitman and his contemporary poetic inheritors, using practices of believing and doubting, and “translating” between poetry and prose. Finally, we will practice ways to write into Whitman’s invitation to “look for [him] under [our] bootsoles”--and to reflect on how and why our responses took the shape they did.
Text: Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Language Choice as Language Justice: Reading for Resistance in Postcolonial Texts
In July 2020, a special committee of the CCCC described linguistic justice: "We cannot say that Black Lives Matter if Black Language is not at the forefront of our work as language educators and researchers!" In this workshop, we will explore the meaning and practice of linguistic justice by reading two books that thematize resistance to colonization in terms of language choice. In Decolonising the Mind, Ngūgī wa Thiong'o describes the English language as a “cultural bomb” for Africans, that “annihilate[s] a people's belief in their names, in their languages, in their environments, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves.” A memoir and a manifesto, this book challenges teachers to respect all of our students' languages. Writing to think about what respect really means here, we will also read Krik? Krak!, a collection of Edwidge Danticat's stories portraying women who maintain self, community, and history in the face of brutality. Tracing connections that Danticat draws between what it means to live and to narrate living—in a range of forms and registers—we will open questions our students face about audience, purpose, and the relation of language choice to individual and cultural sustenance. We will explore ways of working, within and outside of Englishes, to practice modes of translanguaging and translation that, as Ngūgī signals, expand rather than constrict language choice, positing linguistic difference not as otherness but as freedom.
Texts: Edwidge Danticat, Krik? Krak!; excerpts from Ngūgī wa Thiong'o, Decolonising the Mind
Why We Walk: Teju Cole and Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf’s iconic essay “Street Haunting: A London Adventure” (1920) and Teju Cole's novel Open City (2011) reimagine the flâneur, the aimless city wanderer. Mapping connections and frictions between these texts, this workshop explores walking as a literary motif, cultural practice, and writing activity. Joining Julius, Cole’s protagonist, on his many walks through New York City, and the poetic and political ruminations they spark, participants will: 1) write to learn to discover stylistic and thematic parallels between Cole and Woolf; 2) engage questions about power and privilege that the flâneur as “urban sociologist” raise in both Cole and Woolf (how to modernize or reimagine the flâneur for the 21-st century?); and 3) model how teachers might use deep observation as a writing practice to support student writers and researchers.
Texts: Virginia Woolf, “Street Haunting: A London Adventure”; Teju Cole, Open City
The Substance of Justice: The Narrative of Sojourner Truth and The Merchant of Venice
In this workshop, we will write to read visual and rhetorical interpretations of justice, bonds, and property in The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Bondswoman of Olden Times and The Merchant of Venice. One of Shakespeare’s most discomfiting plays, The Merchant of Venice contrasts ideals of justice with the performance of justice: “In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,/ But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,/ Obscures the show of evil..?” As her as-told-to autobiography attests, Truth also had an intimate knowledge of the limitations of the law; born enslaved, she was the first African-American woman to win a court case against a white man, and she was later accused—and acquitted—of murder. “I sell the shadow to support the substance,” Truth said of the photographic portraits she sold her fans. By placing these self-portraits alongside photographic and artistic portrayals of Shylock, we will contextualize their social impact, re-framing critical perspectives as we ponder whether or not “mercy seasons justice.” This workshop is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University.
Texts: Sojourner Truth, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth; William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
The Fractal Nature of Our World: The Mathematics of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia
In Chaos: Making a New Science, James Gleick writes: “Where chaos begins, classical science stops…. The irregular side of nature, the discontinuous and erratic side—these have been puzzles to science, or worse, monstrosities.” He goes on to illustrate how, when investigated more deeply, fractal patterns—patterns that can readily be found when you know how to look for them—emerge from chaos. Similarly, Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia illuminates the pervasiveness of mathematical patterns through the character of Thomasina, a young mathematician who declares that she has found a “truly wonderful method whereby all the forms of nature must give up their numerical secrets and draw themselves through number alone.” This workshop will use writing-to-read strategies to explore the mathematics that is woven into the fabric of this play and to reflect on how complex, fractal patterns enliven our environment, shape data sets, and produce mind-bending art.
Text: Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
Writing Home: Kinship, Citizenship, and Belonging in Sophocles’ Antigone and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home
“My father’s death was a queer business,” writes Alison Bechdel in Fun Home. “It put my family in a bad position, it thwarted and ruined each of us in particular ways.” Bechdel calls her graphic novel “a family tragicomic,” and much like the tragic poetry of Sophocles, she poses hard questions about the meaning of childhood, family, and sexuality; the competing claims of memory, selfhood, and politics; and what more, beyond grief, the living might owe to the dead. Sophocles’ Antigone tells the story of another grieving daughter in rebellion after the queer death of her father, where the conflicts between our most fundamental human obligations play out on both an intimate and a cosmic scale. Sophocles and Bechdel urge us to rethink what it means to claim kinship, gender, and citizenship, and in doing so they also invite us to reimagine what counts as home. In this workshop, we will explore writing-based teaching strategies that can help students to ask deeper questions about these texts and how we relate differently to gender, memory, belonging, justice, and home.
Texts: Sophocles, Antigone; Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
Tell It Slant: Grappling with Suffering through Science Fiction and Fable
Emily Dickinson’s adage “Tell the truth but tell it slant,” a favorite at the Institute for Writing and Thinking, reminds us that odd-angled questions can open up our thinking in rich and surprising ways. In the spirit of this adage, this workshop sets out to explore how genres like science fiction and fable present us with odd-angled avenues to help our students reflect on human suffering. Our focus will be Kindred, Octavia E. Butler’s time travel novel that intertwines plotlines as its protagonist, Dana, is jolted between her life in California in 1976 and a slave plantation in antebellum Maryland. We will look at Butler’s approach to Kindred alongside James Agee’s short story “A Mother’s Tale.” How do allegory, fantasy, and science fiction help us feel the very real horrors of history and human behavior? And when we confront these horrors, what responsibilities do we bear?
Texts: Octavia E. Butler, Kindred; James Agee, “A Mother’s Tale”
Aha! Moments: Exploring Epiphanies in James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield and ZZ Packer
This workshop will run from 9 am to 3:30 pm, Central European time. The short stories of James Joyce’s Dubliners are celebrated for their epiphanies, those privileged moments of clarity that prompt new perspectives on life and love. Positive as these may sound, Joyce paints epiphanies as moments of loss as well as insight. Only in “The Dead,” the final story of Dubliners, does he depict an epiphany with more affirmation than despair. In this workshop, we will put Dubliners in conversation with short stories that spin and skew the literary epiphany. Katherine Mansfield’s stories offer moments of insight that open up new appreciations of ambiguity. ZZ Packer’s visceral epiphanies begin in near-Joycean territory—the humiliations of late adolescence—and arrive at a newly-expansive compassion. Modeling collaborative work that can transfer to the classroom, we will write-to-explore the resonances between literary epiphanies and those that unfold in our own writing processes, delving into early impressions and assumptions, and reflecting on our own insights.
Texts: James Joyce, “The Dead”; Katherine Mansfield, “The Garden Party,”; ZZ Packer, “Brownies” (from Drinking Coffee Elsewhere)
2021 Writer as Reader Series
Writer as Reader workshops model writing practices that inspire students to read more carefully, to grasp the meaning in more complex texts, and to infer meaning from what they read. These workshops invite secondary and college teachers to consider “writing to read” as a central classroom practice, one that shows rather than tells students how writing clarifies the meaning of texts. Working with diverse writing-to-read strategies, workshop participants discover what they bring to the text, what is apparent in the text, what is inferred, and what questions the text poses.
This year, IWT’s Writer as Reader workshops will be held online on October 1 and November 5, 2021. As always, the lineup includes sessions featuring novels, poetry, nonfiction, historical documents, STEM texts, and other media. Each workshop will highlight writing-to-read strategies that foster close reading and help readers develop an appreciation for the connections between different but related texts. Writer as Reader workshops emphasize the pedagogical value of teaching texts that are unfamiliar to students, prompting them to read closely, critically, and with attentiveness and an open mind.
These workshops offer opportunities for critical reading and discussion of the works presented, while modeling writing and reading activities that can focus class discussion, help students engage with difficult material, and emphasize the social character of all learning.
Registration and Fees
Early-Bird Tuition: $427.50
Group Tuition: $400.00
Standard Tuition: $475.00
*Must register at least one month in advance to qualify for Early-Bird or Group tuition
The Teresa Vilardi Scholarship
Limited scholarships are available for partial funding of workshop tuition.
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP FUNDING
For cancellations up to a week before any one-day workshop, we will refund the full workshop tuition.
We cannot refund tuition for registrations canceled less than one week before the event.
All Bard IWT workshops are Continuing Teacher and Leader Education approved in New York State. A one-day workshop grants 7 CTLE hours.