Spring 2015 New College Course Descriptions and Application Procedures

20267 Ek-Static Ekphrastic: An Inter-Arts Writing Lab

Tues 2:30-3:50 in ACE 217 and Thur 7-10pm (or 8 or 9, variably) in ACE 218




Ekphrasis. From the Ancient Greek for “description” (ek, outside + phrazo, to point out); it has come to reference creative writing from and about the other arts.

Ecstasy. From the Ancient Greek ekstasis: “standing outside oneself,” “out of place,” “deranged.”

If you are a writer already fairly comfortable in your writing skin and a lover of art to boot, this class is for you. In this advanced creative writing course, you will enrich your literary practice with various versions of the ancient and recently expanded procedures of ekphrasis, or writing in response to art. Class time will be divided into workshop critique, discussions of model texts, and the viewing of art works and video of performances. We will go to museums and perhaps even a live performance or two, formally (as a class) or informally, as scheduling allows. Over the semester you will retrace the development of ekphrasis with your own steps.

Step 1: Beginning with the careful description of objects, you will follow Stephen Ratcliffe’s example of daily observation of the world. You will keep your own notebook of daily description, observation, attention, a notebook documenting the world how you perceive it.

Step 2: Your world and words will be overtaken by works of art.  You will describe them with the faithful, loving caress of your entire sensorium and nothing more.  

Step 3: You’ll remain loving but faithless; things will get complicated; you’ll cheat. You’ll engage art works not only with your senses but your imagination. You will write narrative poems or stories based on them, interpret and critically engage them, use them as springboards for imaginative digressions, responding in a more nuanced and expansive manner than description alone can entail. As guides, you will read examples of ekphrastic poems, lyric essays, and fiction by W.H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, Rita Dove, Carole Maso, Eduardo C. Corral, Douglas A. Martin, Mary Jo Bang, Susan Stewart, Jorie Graham, Dawn Lundy Martin, John Ashbery, Mark Doty, Charles Simic, Rebecca Brown, Donald Hall, Jeanette Winterson, Cole Swensen, John Taggart, Camille Guthrie, Marianne Moore, and more still—responding to artists ranging from Pieter Bruegel the Elder to Remedios Varo, Joseph Cornell to Carrie Mae Weems, Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh and a host of others. You will follow suit, responding to art works of your choosing from the Ringling and elsewhere (we will all be living at the Ringling for a time).

Step 4: From the static visual arts of painting and sculpture we will leap and spin into dance and performance, looking at works by such choreographers as Martha Graham, Pina Bausch, Mats Ek, and Ohad Naharin (everyone is encouraged and urged to attend the Dušan Týnek dance performance at the Ringling in March).

Step: 5: You will continue to expand your ekphrastic practice, now to include “translating” art works’ formal techniques into literary forms that aim to activate in readers thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and associations similar to the ones the art invoked in you. Apart from a footnote or title, your “translations” may or may not immediately resemble or invoke the art work itself. Your ultimate goal will be to write companion pieces to the original. If you’ve ever wanted to collaborate with Paul Cézanne, Ann Hamilton, Ad Reinhart, René Magritte, Albrecht Dürer, Alberto Giacometti, Jenny Saville, Judy Chicago, Robert Smithson, Chuck Close, Kara Walker, or [your favorite artist here]—now’s your chance.

Step 6: You will expand your notion of ekphrasis from the response to preexisting art works to include that conjunction of art disciplines we now familiarly term multimedia. You will create your own art pieces that conjoin your writing with your own original drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, dances, music, etc. You will look at various text-image collusions and collaborations, including those by Matthea Harvey, Anne Carson, artist Kiki Smith and poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and the novel as art installation cum abstracted photorealist painting that is Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas. You’ll look at visual poetry ranging from Apollinaire’s Calligrammes to Douglas Kearney’s Black Automaton, and text art ranging from Jenny Holzer’s well-known public interventions to Glenn Ligon’s heralded “text paintings.” You will watch performance and video art works by Derek Jarman, Rashaad Newsome, Ann Hamilton, Omer Fast, and Ryan Trecartin.

At every step: You’ll explore how the other arts might inflect, in-form and transform your writing. Questions of the epistemology and politics of the (embodied, subjective, racialized and sexed/sexualized) gaze will be as inevitable as this writing workshop's inadequacy to properly address them. It will take a lot of time and a lot of energy and you will have to be very committed to it. You will regret your choice at one or more points and complain to your friends along the way. You will leave exhausted. But if you’re a writer who loves the other arts you will love it, you’ll be glad you did it, and it might just change your writing forever.

Workshop size limited to 12 participants. Students admitted by application only.

Application Instructions for Advanced  Course:

Email Dr. Edgerton at TodEdgerton@gmail.com with A SINGLE Word or PDF file that addresses the items below. The subject line of the email should read, "Ekphrastic Application." Applications will be accepted immediately and through 11:59pm on Sunday, February 1. While I will still take applications throughout Sunday, (last night was not the deadline, I was simply asking you to get them in sooner if you could–always read carefully) in an attempt to expedite the process and raise the chances that I'll be able to set the class list by the first day of each class, I am asking you to try to get your application in by Saturday evening instead. Thank you!

1) A brief history of your development as a writer. When did you start? In what genres and styles have you written/do you prefer (do you identify more as a poet, fictioneer, playwright, creative nonfiction writer, etc., or equally comfortable in two or more genres, or still exploring)? What creative writing courses at New College and/or elsewhere have you taken previously? If none, what has prepared you for an advanced creative writing workshop? Length: Anywhere from one to two double-spaced pages.

2) Why do you want to take this specific course, Ek-Static Ekphrastic: An Inter-Arts Writing Lab? Length: One to three paragraphs (double-spaced).

3) What is your background in art-making in any other discipline, visual or performing arts (“None, but I’m willing to experiment and explore!” is a perfectly fine answer). One or two paragraphs, double-spaced.

4) Share with me one or two of your favorite visual or performing artists (painters, video artists, sculptors, composers, choreographers, performance artists, etc.) and tell me what it is about their work that you love. A paragraph to a page, double-spaced.

5) A 3-5pp writing sample of your creative writing (any genre or combination of genres).


NOTE: Students admitted into class will be emailed. As a precaution, a class list of accepted students will also be posted below. If you decide you do not want to take the class, please let me know asap so I can move someone up from the wait list, should I need to use one. Thank you for following these instructions.



Hannah Bowlus

James Carillo

Corey Culbertson

Stephen Fleming

Miranda Gale

Carly Greenberg

Benjamin Kerns

Alyssa Motylinski

Aaron Pond

Tyler Pratt

Rory Sharp

Allya Yourish


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