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Christopher Cory
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Southampton College of Long Island University introducesinnovative M.F.A. program in Writing

Jules Feiffer, Kurt Vonnegut, Shana Alexander, Peter Matthiessen,Norman Lear, Robert Hughes, Dava Sobel, Bruce Jay Friedman, Molly Haskell,Paul Goldberger and other notable authors to join Roger Rosenblattin inventive new approach

 

Traditional skills for a changing society
Southampton, NY, August 28
-Southampton College of Long IslandUniversity will expand its innovative undergraduate writing program to includea Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing that is more realistic and comprehensivethan similar programs across the country, University President David Steinbergannounced today.

"We will cherish our poets and novelists and will be equally responsiveto our memo writers, our city planners, our television critics and our computerprogrammers," Steinberg said.

He added: "The University is today making an intellectual declarationthat writing remains the essential tool for communication, but that it mustencompass the realities of our contemporary society. Our new program willoffer undergraduate and graduate students something unique in American education."

The M.F.A. program will offer courses in business and science writingas well as in fiction, poetry, biography, script writing and literary journalism.The degree may be earned in regular semesters or by attending only duringsummers. Classes will begin in the summer of 1998.

Steinberg noted that the program already has enlisted a galaxy of starwriters, many of them full- or part-time residents of Long Island's EastEnd, who have been chosen to match the range of interests and talents expectedof the program's students.

The author, essayist and television commentator Roger Rosenblattjoined the Southampton College faculty last year as Parsons Family UniversityProfessor in Writing, and will teach in the new program while continuingto teach undergraduates.

In its first semesters, the M.F.A. program also will offer courses byShana Alexander, the author and former "60 Minutes" Point/Counterpointdebater whose books include "Very Much a Lady"; Jules Feiffer,the celebrated cartoonist for the Village Voice and award-winning scriptwriter who recently began contributing to the Op-Ed page of The New YorkTimes; fiction writer Kaylie Jones, whose novel, "A Soldier'sDaughter Never Cries," currently is being made into a movie by theMerchant/Ivory team; and John Leo, the iconoclastic essayist forU.S. News & World Report who often appears on Fox News.

Lectures and workshops will be given by Kurt Vonnegut, authorof "Slaughterhouse Five," "Cat's Cradle," "Breakfastof Champions," "Harrison Bergeron," "God Bless You,Mr. Rosewater," the forthcoming "Timequake" and numerousother works of fiction that have made him one of America's most celebratedwriters; critic Robert Hughes, whose recent study of art in America,"American Vision," became the basis for this year's acclaimedPBS special on the subject; the novelist and screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman("The Lonely Guy's Book of Life," "Splash"); DavaSobel, the former science writer for The New York Times whose "Longitude"became a surprise bestseller last year; the novelist and environmentalistPeter Matthiessen ("The Snow Leopard"; "At Play inthe Fields of the Lord," which also was adapted as a motion picture);the novelist and screen writer Richard Price ("The Colorof Money," "Clockers"); the producer and television writerNorman Lear, who originated "All in the Family" and isthe founder of the civil liberties advocacy group People for the AmericanWay; the architectural critic and former New York Times commentator PaulGoldberger, now a contributing editor of The New Yorker, whose worksinclude "The Skyscraper"; Carl Spielvogel, the advertisingpioneer (and former New York Times advertising columnist) who helped formthe Interpublic Group of advertising agencies and the Backer and Spielvogelagency; Michael Arlen, television critic and essayist for The NewYorker; the film critic and memoirist ("Love and Other Infectious Diseases")Molly Haskell; and the communications writer Alan Weinblatt,who has a special interest in writing and technology and has served as aconsultant to the Diebold Group, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and PhilipMorris.

In addition to Rosenblatt, the poet William Hathaway and thenovelist Indira Ganesan have been hired to teach full-time inthe undergraduate English major and in the new M.F.A. program in Writing.Hathaway, the author of six books of poetry, is a 1969 graduate of the M.F.A.program in writing at the University of Iowa who is listed in "TheDictionary of Literary Biography" as "one of the most skilled,serious and independent of living American poets." Ganesan is the authorof two novels published by Alfred A. Knopf, "The Journey" and"Inheritance, "which will be published next spring.

To attract the best students from across the country, the College isoffering full and partial scholarships to a number of students who demonstratemerit and promise in any form of writing. Teaching assistantships also willbe available to qualified students.

Rosenblatt noted that the new program is both traditional and original."Our society is increasingly dependent on the intelligent use of language.Even cyberspace is defined by words on a screen. We want to train writerswho will use their talents not only in fiction and poetry but in any areawhere ability with words helps us better understand everything, ourselvesincluded."

In its unusual undergraduate curriculum, the College requires studentsto take three English courses and five courses that feature writing as acentral component. Before graduating, all students must pass a proficiencytest in English which is graded by two instructors other than the student'sprincipal English teacher.

This year Southampton College produced its 28th Fulbright scholarshipwinner, an English major, adding to the 27 winners over the last 22 yearsin marine and environmental sciences. Its summer Writers Conference hasnurtured successful writers for over 25 years.

The residential college of liberal arts and sciences is part of the eighth-largestprivate university in the country, with over 20,000 students. The Collegeis the location of WPBX-FM 88.3, keystone of the Long Island Public RadioNetwork, and is home to the Friends World Program of global education forsocial change and the National Center for Women and Retirement Research.

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