Literary Bennington is a website written and edited by students that seeks to investigate the literary mystique—both past and present—at America's foremost experimental college.
This web project originally grew out of a course by the same name led by literature faculty member Benjamin Anastas. In the classroom we read work by the veritable pantheon of authors who have taught, visited, and studied at Bennington College since its founding in 1932. And on our first Tumblr, we explored a larger question: Why does a small experimental school at the ankle of Vermont loom so large in the American literary landscape? Bennington has produced prize-winning novelists for decades now, literary journalists of every stripe, poets who disrupted the canon, critics who upended ‘traditional’ assumptions about art, gender, and writing. It has been mythologized as Camden College in Bret Easton Ellis’s The Rules of Attraction (1987), Hampden College in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992), Camden College (again) in Jill Eisenstadt’s From Rockaway (1987) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003). And, of course, it’s just Bennington in the countless memoirs by the actors, painters, dancers and love-lorn undergraduates from much squarer campuses who passed through for the parties.
The work of Literary Bennington continues, and now we've moved our operations to a full-fledged website.
Beneath the popular myth of Bennington as a laboratory for new and ever-more expansive acts of freedom, there is a literary tradition on campus that we will be investigating with fresh eyes. Has literature been taught differently here from the beginning? Or is there something in the water? Will our search through the archive unlock the secrets of how to construct the Bennington Writer?
Our goals for this blog are to be lively, accurate and informative, to post often enough to keep your interest, and to delve deeper into the cultural life on a campus that has been a proving ground for the some of the country’s most innovative and influential literary artists.
If you have any questions, comments, or story ideas to suggest, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special note: We are grateful to Oceana Wilson and Laura Payne from Crossett Library for their invaluable guidance and support in searching the College archive.