Nathan McClain

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing & African American Literary Arts
Nathan McClain
Contact Nathan

Mail Code HA
Nathan McClain
Emily Dickinson Hall 27
413.559.5427

Nathan McClain, assistant professor of creative writing and African American literary arts, received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Warren Wilson's M.F.A. Program for Writers.

He is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of fellowships from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, The Frost Place, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Previously, he taught creative writing at Seton Hall, Drew University, and St. Joseph's College, as well as poetry workshops for the Cave Canem Foundation. His poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New York Times Magazine, upstreet, American Poets, The Rumpus, and Hunger Mountain, among others.

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Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • Hampshire's Professor Emerita of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychology, Annie G. Rogers asserts, "Every sentence we speak is continually surrounded by what is not said and may in fact be unsayable... However, to hear the unsayable I had to consider words as revealing both a conscious narrative about experience and an unconscious one." In recent times, the subject of mental health and wellness has become more openly discussed, though poets have embraced the subject for generations--an experience remains, to this day, almost "unsayable." This course will investigate how the poet grants a reader access to such complicated experience, their speaker's interior landscape, and how experience is then communicated--recreated--within the reader. Students will also deepen their understanding of the role Image plays in the effectiveness of such poems. Readings may include the work of Anne Carson, Elizabeth Bishop, Olena Kalytiak Davis, and Richard Siken, among others. Keywords: mental health, creative writing, poetry, performance, art

  • For centuries, stories and fantasies have been heaped upon Black bodies, and it shows absolutely no sign of slowing. With that understanding, how does African American Literature, art, or film view its protagonist, view the self, and how has that self-image been colored or informed by how it has been held in the imagination of others? In this course, students will not only engage the continually shifting perceptions of Black being, but also the deep influence of media, in particular, in those perceptions. Students should expect to draft and revise essays and reading responses that analyze and interrogate the work of various African American writers, artists, and filmmakers, which may include Cornelius Eady, Victor LaValle, Ava Duvernay, and Donald Glover, among others. Keywords: African American literature, media, visual art, film, poetry.

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  • Increasingly, it would seem to be the preference of readers in our neo-narrative age, age of biography and memoir, age of the talk show: an appetite for story. For narrative. But the lyric poet might just as easily say that every narrative poem obscures a lyric and suspends time. What happens when a poem is more concerned with "how something felt" than "what happened"? In this course, participants will investigate such questions, as well as the lyric poem at various levels of craft and technique. Students will draft and revise lyric poems of their own and consider, in written responses, the merits of the lyric over the narrative mode. Students may read work by Charles Wright, Donald Justice, Donika Kelly, Sandra Beasley, and Emily Dickinson, among others. (keywords: #creativewriting #time #poetryworkshop #narrative)

  • The late poet and essayist, Reginald Shepherd, in his thought-provoking essay, "The Other's Other," writes "I am just as much a black person when I write about spring snow and narcissus blooms as when I write about the South Bronx or the slave trade, and I am as much not." Poet, essayist, and editor Camille Dungy adds, "To bring more voices into the conversation about human interactions with the natural world, we must change the parameters of the conversation." For centuries, our writing about the living world has been defined by Anglo-American perspectives, though African American poets and writers have offered unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of ecocriticism and ecopoetics. In this course, students will consider and examine the literature of nature from the lens of poets and writers of color as well as explore their unique relationships to the living, natural world through original poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and hybrid forms. Students may read and consider the work of Aimee Nezhukumatahil, Jericho Brown, Lucille Clifton, Jennifer Chang, and Ed Roberson, among others. As part of the Environments and Change Learning Collaborative, we will have the opportunity to engage in collaborative work and projects with a cohort of classes at Hampshire College addressing similar questions from different perspectives to form a learning community. (#creativewriting, #naturewriting, #environmentaljustice)

  • Fredrick Douglass famously writes, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." That struggle, for African Americans, has often been managed or mitigated through the solace of music, of song, from spirituals to rhythm and blues. In this course, we will approach this topic by reading and discussing a selection of songs, poetry, prose, drama, and film to determine the targets of African American dissatisfaction, and to understand how assumptions about race can tear the social fabric among and within groups. Related themes include religion, assimilation, gender, and art; and notice how many of our literary readings use or are about music. Students should expect readings to be organized historically by song genre, taking us from the antebellum period to the contemporary period. But we will also move around within periods to see how later authors have written about the past that, in part, defined them. Students should expect to draft essays and reading responses exploring the relationship between music and texts and may read and consider work by Audre Lorde, Sam Cooke, Phyllis Wheatley, Spike Lee, and W.E.B. DuBois, among others. (keywords: African American literature, creative writing, music)