In Grinnell’s English curriculum you will read, analyze, discuss, and enjoy American, British, Irish, and Postcolonial literature. You will do intensive writing, with the chance to produce both creative and critical works. You can study independently and travel abroad, such as on the Grinnell-in-London program, and connect with visiting authors and critics on campus.
Languages and Literatures
Discover the cultural richness of ancient Greece and Rome, and the beginnings of the liberal arts tradition. Classics at Grinnell includes not only the Greek and Latin languages, but also the history, literature, art, archaeology, mythology, and philosophy of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Study in Athens or Rome is available. Majors in classics go on to careers in many fields, including education, law, medicine, scientific research, business, and librarianship.
Want to engage deeply and knowledgeably with China and Japan? Grinnell takes you there, with a full curriculum in Chinese language and literature and two years of Japanese language and literature.
This program reflects the assumption that educated persons will wish to extend their experience of literature beyond what has been written in their native tongue and beyond what they can read in the foreign languages they have mastered. The education of any student can be enriched by exploring literature in translation. Courses in General Literary Studies make possible the discovery of a variety of illuminating relationships among works in different languages.
The Alternate Language Study Option (ALSO) program is designed for self-motivated and disciplined students who want to learn a language not taught through the regular curriculum at Grinnell. The program provides a two-semester sequence of beginning level self-instructional study in a variety of languages, including but not limited to Italian, Portuguese, Korean, Hindi, Czech, and Kiswahili. The specific languages offered depend on the number of students interested and the availability of materials and trained tutors.
The Grinnell writer dropped her forehead onto her arms in abject despair. She lay there, limp and hopeless, like a corn doll abandoned in the rain. The husks of her notebooks lay about her, fluttering idly in the Iowa wind that whistled through the partially open window. A page of one particularly kind and caring notebook draped itself across her shoulder in a reassuring way. It’s all right, sweetie, that touch seemed to say. It’ll all work out.
The writer had bigger things to worry about than talking notebooks. It was two hours before her Craft of Fiction class, and she still had no idea how she was going to end the story about General Partitions’ visit to the laundry mat. She had typed only one sentence, the curser blinking menacingly after the small, plain period.
“Where are the ‘mats’ at this socalled laundry mat?”
She couldn’t bear to look at the sentence one more time. She was doomed. No late fees. No hidden charges. Just straight up doomed.
Of course, this never actually happens. Not only are Grinnellians generally sane enough to know not to take advice from stray sheets of whispering paper, but the creative community here is so strong that any despairing writers only have to click their poetic heels three times and they’ll have five peers sitting in the living room of Mears Cottage discussing potential directions to take General Partitions and his matless laundry mat.
Both the students and the English department are wicked supporters of writing. And even more students are writers than are active in the community. This past semester we received more than 120 submissions of poetry, prose, and creative essays to The Grinnell Review, our student literary magazine. But if anyone does want to be active, it doesn’t just stop at submitting to the magazine. Let’s take an average week in the life of me, Molly Rideout, aspiring novelist, not-so-good poet, and champion swimmer in the pool of the Grinnell writing community.
Sunday: I get up early before anyone else and spend my morning in one of the classrooms of the JRC developing stories on the dry erase boards. Writing on the walls makes me feel important and powerful. During my night shift at the library, I interrogate my supervisor on his latest screenplay about an editor who gets duped into publishing a worthless, contentless book. I contemplate if those same tactics could work for me.
Monday: One of the three days of the week when I have my Craft of Fiction class. Each of us brings in scenes from stories we’re currently working on for feedback from our peers. Students from any major can take the Craft classes, so we get a nice variety of perspectives. I took the Craft of Poetry class last semester with Professor George Barlow, who has got to be one of the coolest cats in Iowa. He tells stories about farting poets.
Tuesday: I spend two hours of free time between class and lunch working on the story I outlined on the dry erase boards. Sometimes I fall asleep too.
Wednesday: Another Craft of Fiction day. At night there is a meeting of Grinnell Writers at Large, an unofficial club that meets and workshops pieces the members submit. It’s a lot like any of the Craft classes, only you can submit anything, you don’t have to come every week, and we only grade you based on the number of cookies you eat. Wednesdays are also Build-Your-Own-Burger day at the dining hall. Maybe I can write a story about that.
Thursday: The English department brings in an awesome visiting writer like Ana Castillo or Adrienne Rich to read to us and answer questions about the writing process. They tell us where they like to write, how they got published, and whether they prefer the Mets or the Yankees.
Friday: Last day of Craft of Fiction. That night, we have fun partying with friends. Every once in a while a group of us drives to Iowa City where we run around, eat good Indian food, and listen to other cool writers read from their work.
Saturday: A good day to start doing some of that homework. There’s usually a lot of writing involved, but none of the fun stuff. Unless you find “Use of Photographs in Nabokov’s Pale Fire” to be fun, which (to be honest) I kind of do. Oh well. Even the writer’s brain needs a break from creativity every once in a while. Sometimes it’s good to just regurgitate literary criticism onto a computer screen in 500–700 words and not have to wonder where exactly the mats are located in a laundry mat.
Molly Rideout '10 is an English major from Madison, Wisconsin.
It’s a strange feeling, accomplishing a goal you didn’t know you had. It’s happened to me a few times at Grinnell, most markedly, when my former professor, Tim Arner, turned to me in the campus pub and said, “People who don’t like ABBA are bad people.” It happened again a few days later, when he wrote on his [plan], our Grinnell blog community, “If I could have a genie grant me just one wish, I would wish that everyone I know would sit down and watch Teen Wolf. Then I would wish that I had more wishes, but it would be too late because I already used up my one wish on the Teen Wolf thing.”
Who was this man? I wondered. He was my professor; he has a Ph.D. in the most painful period of British literature; and he had practically cried over the last lines of Beowulf, for God’s sake. Could he actually be cool?
I embarked on this road of professor-student friendship with my comrade-in-arms Jess Issacharoff ’09. Throughout my Grinnell career, I’ve often taken for granted the fact that I know my professors — until now. Because there’s no other way to say it: being friends with a professor is so cool. As undergraduates, I feel we’re often flailing for understanding. Knowing someone who knows so much more than I do — and plays video games — is both inspiring and comforting.
As you read this, I will have graduated from Grinnell, and it’s easy to wonder whether there’s a place for Grinnellians in the real world, a world of people who don’t think of “social construct” as a phrase to throw around at a dinner party. Professor Arner has shown me that life goes on after college; that I will have a house, a job, and a life, and I won’t constantly yearn to be back in college.
It’s a strange and sobering lesson, I suppose. But at this point, knowing intelligent, interesting, socially capable (for the most part) 30-somethings is exactly what I need. Plus, let’s be honest, there are too few ABBA-lovers in the world. We have to stick together.
Rachel Fields '09 is an English major from Lemont, Illinois.
Grinnell, IA - Writers@Grinnell will open its fall semester program with a reading from novelist and essayist Natalie Bakopoulos on Thurs., Sept. 13. All readings will be in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center on the Grinnell College campus at 8 p.m. unless noted.
"We have an incredible group of writers coming this year," said Dean Bakopoulos, assistant professor of English, who is directing this year's program. "Some of the most entertaining readers and engaging teachers of writing in the country are coming to Grinnell this year. I'm excited for our students."
Natalie Bakopoulos will hold a roundtable discussion in Room 226 of the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center at 4:15 p.m. Bakopoulos recently released her first novel "The Green Shore," which paints a finely-etched portrait of one family, whose heartbreaking stories of love and resistance play out against the backdrop of the late 1960s Greek military dictatorship. She has also written essays for "Granta," "Salon," and "The New York Times" about Greece's current economic crisis. She is the sister of Dean Bakopoulos, who will join her for the roundtable discussion entitled "Sibling Rivalry: Writing About Family Without Getting Disowned."
Historian, biographer, and journalist Sam Tanenhaus, a 1977 Grinnell College graduate and visiting faculty in English, will give a presentation on Thurs., Sept. 27. Tanenhaus is the editor of "The New York Times Book Review" and the author of "The Death of Conservatism" and "Whittaker Chambers: A Biography."
On Oct. 4, author Charles Baxter, acclaimed fiction writer, critic, and one of the nation's most beloved creative writing teachers, will read from his most recent story collection, "Gryphon: New and Selected Stories," recently published by Pantheon/Random House. Baxter is also the author of a dozen other books, including the National Book Award finalist "The Feast of Love."
May-lee Chai, a writer, educator and 1989 graduate of Grinnell College, has participated in past Writers@Grinnell series and will be back on Thurs., Oct. 11 to lead a roundtable discussion on "Writing after Grinnell" at 4:15 p.m. in Room 226 of the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center. Following the roundtable, Chai will read from her new memoir "Hapa Girl." This event will be held at the college's Faulconer Gallery at 8 p.m.
On Thurs., Nov. 1, Ronald Wallace, will read from his poetry, including selections from "Long for this World" and "For a Limited Time Only." Wallace will also lead a roundtable presentation on formal poetry at 4:15 p.m. in Room 209 of the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center. Praised as "one of our liveliest, most readable poets" by Charles Harper Webb, Wallace's trademark warmth and wit makes poetry lovers out of the form's sworn enemies.
Brothers Davy and Peter Rothbart began FOUND Magazine in 2001. The magazine spawned the 2004 bestseller "Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World," as well as two other collections in 2006 and 2009. On Sun., Nov. 11, Davy will read selections from his new essay collection "My Heart is an Idiot" and will be accompanied by musical selections composed and performed by Peter. True performers, the Rothbart brothers have sat on David Letterman's interview couch and have been featured on the radio show "This American Life."
Students of the Grinnell Review will round off the fall semester readings on Thurs., Dec. 6, with readings from the campus's literary journal, which is edited and designed entirely by Grinnell students.
The Joe Rosenfield '25 Center is located at 1115 8th Ave. on the Grinnell College campus. Faulconer Gallery is located in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts at 1108 Park Street, also on the college's campus. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grinnell, IA - Writers@Grinnell will open its fall semester program with a reading by novelist and faculty member Dean Bakopoulos on Thurs., Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center on the Grinnell College campus.
Bakopoulos’ latest novel, “My American Unhappiness,” was reviewed this summer by the Los Angeles Times and Wall St. Journal and listed as the “#1 Title to Pick Up Now.” He is currently at work on a television series based on his first novel, “Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon,” set in his hometown of Detroit. Bakopoulos is a member of the Grinnell English faculty and also teaches in the creative writing and environment program at Iowa State University.
Poet Nell Regan will read on Sept. 13 from her debut collection, “Preparing for Spring,” reviewed as a “stingingly clear outdoor light.” Regan has also published historical biography in “Female Activists: Irish Women and Change.” Regan will read in Room 102 of Alumni Recitation Hall.
On Sept. 29, author Ed Pavlic will read from his most recent books, “But Here Are Small Clear Refractions,” “Winners Have Yet to be Announced,” and “Labors Lost Left Unfinished.” Pavlic’s works have drawn recognition from the African American Review, the American Poetry Review, and the Georgia Writers Association.
Non-fiction writer Susanne Antonetta will discuss her work in the fields of environment, mental health, diversity, spirituality, and the sciences during a reading on Oct. 6 co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies concentration. Antonetta is the author of “Body Toxic,” a New York Times Notable Book, as well as four books of poetry under her legal name Suzanne Paola and a soon-to-be released book on adoption titled “Inventing Family.”
All Writers@Grinnell events will be held at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 8th Ave. on the Grinnell College campus, unless otherwise noted. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or email@example.com.
GRINNELL, IA—Writers@Grinnell will open its fall semester program with a reading by fiction writer and faculty member Jeremy Jackson on Thurs., Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center on the Grinnell College campus.
Jackson, who teaches fiction writing at Grinnell, has written two novels, “Life at These Speeds” and “In Summer,” plus three cookbooks, one of which was nominated for the James Beard award. He also writes young adult novels under the pseudonym of Alex Bradley.
On Sept. 16, novelist Curtis Sittenfeld will participate in a public interview about the relationship between fiction and contemporary politics. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Sittenfeld is the author of best-sellers “American Wife,” “Prep” and “The Man of My Dreams.” Her writing has appeared in many popular magazines and on public radio’s “This American Life.”
On Sept. 29, essayist and short-story writer Barry Lopez will read from his works, many of which involve the relationship between the physical landscape and human culture. He is the author of “Arctic Dreams,” which won the National Book Award, and “Of Wolves and Men,” as well as eight other works of fiction and collected essays. Lopez’ reading will be in Faulconer Gallery at 8 p.m., surrounded by a new exhibition, “Culturing Community.” He will also lead a roundtable discussion on “Undivided Loyalties: The Natural Environment and the Writer’s Craft,” at 4:15 p.m. in Room 209 of the Rosenfield Center.
All Writers@Grinnell events will be held at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 8th Ave. on the Grinnell College campus, unless otherwise noted. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. If accommodations are needed, please contact the event’s sponsoring organization as soon as possible to make a request. -30-