Associate Professor of Fiction Writing
N.S. Koenings's first novel, The Blue Taxi , and her short story collection, Theft, were published by Little Brown and Company in 2006 and 2009.
Her fiction is usually set in global peripheries, where her diverse, multi-lingual characters search for safety and love in contexts sharply shaped by violence and Empire. Before dedicating herself to fiction writing and pursuing her M.F.A., she completed an M.A. and Ph.D. in socio-cultural anthropology with a focus on East Africa, popular histories of revolution, and politics and witchcraft. She has published anthropological work on Tanzanian politics and expressive culture and has worked for human rights in Africa.
Her current interests include difficult women (Helene Cixous, Clarice Lispector, Janet Frame), inflecting English with sounds and knowledge drawn from other cultures and languages, and the history and theory of narrative craft. In addition to fiction-related work, her areas of expertise include ethnography, Islam in Africa, global migrations, racialized histories, gender, and sexuality.
Essential to reading is a sense of where stories come from, in whose voice and from what position narratives unfold. While 'point of view' in fiction is a technical term whose modes must be understood, it is equally a matter of vision, position, ethics, knowledge and voice. Reflecting on their own commitments, class members will encounter and write in a variety of literary points of view. We will ask: What stories and whose voices have we rarely heard? Who are our narrators and what are they uniquely placed to say? What do they fail to see? How do 'distance' and 'intimacy' operate in various points of view? What unique freedoms are inherent to each, and how can experimentation help us to determine the best point of view for our own individual projects? Students will produce two workshop pieces, and respond in writing to our readings, and submit a final portfolio. Prerequisite: One college-level writing class with significant peer critique.
African fiction today is gaining prominence on the global literary stage, and has much to tell us about about the world. In this course, we will read a selection of contemporary African fiction, writing creatively in response to our readings. We will also reflect actively on our own individual relationships to the idea of 'Africa.' As this is a tutorial intended for first-year students, we will also discover the Hampshire community together, and think about what community means to us. Students will be supported as they make their way through Division 1, and consider the possibilities raised by interdisciplinary study. Course activities will be designed with an eye to identifying resources for students. We may also watch African films together and go on outings as a group. Authors we may read include: Binyavanga Wainaina, Mariama Ba, Okot p'Bitek, Chimamanda Aidichie, Monica arak de Nyeko, Leslile Nneka Arimah, Warsan Shire, Tendai Huchu, and Roland Rugero.
Understanding the limits and possibilities of point of view is an essential step in becoming a writer. This reading and workshop course will introduce members to various kinds of literary point of view. Through focused writing exercises, intensive reading of contemporary U.S. and international fiction told in different modes, members will acquire a language for analyzing point of view in fiction, as well as practical experience in using varied points of view themselves. Most importantly, members will refine their ability to read as writers, mining published work for technical insights and guidance. Students will produce 2 pieces of fiction for the workshop and will also write a critical essay about point of view. Readings include fiction by: Tendai Huchu, Jesamyn Ward, May Sarton, Basma Abdel Aziz, Mohsin Hamid, Damon Galgut, Ramona Ausbel and Danit Brown. Instructor Permission only: NO PERMISSIONS GRANTED UNTIL FIRST WEEK. NO WRITING SAMPLES. ALL INTERESTED STUDENTS MUST ATTEND THE FIRST CLASS.
This seminar course will take as its starting point the idea that women's lives are complex, valuable, and interesting, and that creative writers can benefit from closely and courageously imagining, exploring, and textualizing them. Our readings will focus on women writers whose work is considered 'difficult' - strange, complicated and provocative; and we will use these writings as a springboard for our own weekly written work. Formal Assignments include 2 class presentations and 3 revised creative writing pieces. Among the authors to be considered are: Audre Lorde, Janet Frame, Helene Cixous, bell hooks, Assata Shakur, Maria Ndiaye, Warsan Shire, Bhanu Kapil Rider, May Sarton and Maggie Nelson. Instructor Permission only: NO PERMISSIONS GRANTED UNTIL FIRST WEEK. NO WRITING SAMPLES. ALL INTERESTED STUDENTS MUST ATTEND THE FIRST CLASS.
In this fiction workshop, we will consider contemporary short story collections as well as 'story cycles' or 'novels-in-stories.' In our readings, we will ask: what 'makes' a collection? how does one story build on the next, even when the characters and settings are different? how can telling multiple stories about one event complicate readers' understanding of the fictional world? how do authors' aesthetic and ethical concerns carry over or change across stories? In addition to written reading responses and intensive in-class writing aimed at helping students to discover their own writerly voices, students will produce two to three distinct pieces of fiction that 'speak' to each other, either by taking place in the same world or taking up similar questions or concerns. Some of the authors we'll consider are: Louise Erdrich, Edward P. Jones, Lorrie Moore, Z.Z. Packer, Sherman Alexie, Ramona Ausubel, Karen Russell, Shelley Jackson and Alice Munro.
This course is designed for students in their final semester of Division II who expect to undertake a Division III in creative writing. Our weekly readings will feature works on writing by authors such as Francine Prose, Italo Calvino, bell hooks, Graham Greene, Walter Mosley, Annie Dillard, Helene Cixous, and others, as well as interviews with contemporary writers about their craft. Students will design their own independent project (for example, a series of poems, two long stories, a collection of flash fiction, comix, novel chapters, etc) and create a feasible timeline for their execution. Working in small groups, students will share their work each week and help move each other forward. Students will also do one in-class presentation on an artist of their choice. At the end of the semester, students will present a portfolio of work as well and a reflexive essay. Prerequisite: Two previous workshop courses in creative writing (poetry, fiction, literary journalism, memoir).