The Naysayers

In our consumer capitalist culture that puts a premium on output and production, extrovertedness, able-bodiedness and efficiency, this class will pose the question: what is it to be inward and slow, dysfunctional and inactive? What does it mean not to go outside, but to stay in, to dwell, to fester? We will consider what it means to let a thing stew, to watch a wound ruminate, to allow a thought to lie still and bedridden. This course will examine all manners of semi-recumbent postures, the types of enclosures and structures that accommodate such positions and gestures, and the ways that words might weave a drawl inside such spaces and states. We will read an array of texts, such as Virginia Woolf’s “On Being Ill,” Melville’s “Bartleby” and Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, and consider artworks by Goya, Louise Bourgeois, Chantal Akerman, Frida Kahlo and Adrian Piper. In this workshop, we will write through and around the voices and images of known literary misanthropes, shut-ins, agoraphobes and recluses to compose a series of written works inspired by acts of witness to interior landscapes (rather than a more aggressive “interrogation”), trying to reach a Bartlebyesque resistance through writing. Students of all backgrounds and disciplines welcome.

Workshop Details


Emily Skillings is the author of two chapbooks: Backchannel (Poor Claudia) and Linnaeus: The 26 Sexual Practices of Plants (No, Dear/ Small Anchor Press). Her first full-length collection of poetry, Fort Not, will be published by the Song Cave in 2017. Recent poems can be found or are forthcoming in the Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, LitHub, Jubilat, Pleiades, Phantom Limb, Philadelphia Review of Books and Washington Square. The recipient of a 2017 Pushcart Prize, she is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, where she is a 2017 Teaching Fellow, and organizes the Earshot reading series with Allyson Paty. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, a feminist poetry collective and event series.



Simone Kearney is the author of My Ida (Ugly Duckling Presse, forthcoming 2017) and In Threes, a limited edition artist chapbook (Minute BOOKS, 2013). She was a 2014 recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in poetry, and a 2010 recipient of an Amy Award from Poets & Writers. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Hunter College and an MFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has been awarded residencies at the Lighthouse Works, the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the Woodstock Brydcliffe Guild, and Ragdale. She currently teaches at Parsons School of Design and Ramapo college.