July 26, 2006 at 08:52 AM EDT
The New School Establishes First Undergraduate Program in Writing and Democracy; The 'Riggio Writing and Democracy Program' Explores the Connections Between Democratic Expression and Writing and Rhetoric

The New School today announced a new and important undergraduate program in Writing and Democracy. The "Riggio Writing and Democracy Program," made possible by a generous donation from Leonard and Louise Riggio, will explore the vital connections between democracy and citizenship and the skills of reading, writing, and rhetoric. The program will start this fall.

"Louise and I believe that skillful writing provides the voice for all political movements," said Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble, Inc. "With respect to democratic institutions, their ability to function and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world can be seen as a function of the many nuances of the language which is their lifeblood. Our interest, then, is to encourage more participation in the 'programming' of our democracy by an ever wider circle of informed people."

"The Writing and Democracy Project" is an innovative undergraduate program of writing workshops and close reading seminars that are grounded in this connection between writing and democracy. A close attention to language--a vigilance and sophistication in the use and appreciation of words--is both vital preparation for a career as a writer, whether poet, novelist, or nonfiction writer, and an essential prerequisite for alert, informed citizenship. The New School and the Riggios envision an unparalleled educational opportunity for young people to study these deep-rooted connections between writing and democracy.

This program will enable the university to make new connections across its eight schools in areas of strength, including: political theory, social engagement, and design. This new curricula is being developed by the school's prestigious Graduate Writing Program, under the supervision of Director Robert Polito, but will be offered to undergraduates throughout the university, including Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts and The New School for General Studies.

"The New School is committed to giving students the skills they need to address the challenges and opportunities of our times," said Bob Kerrey, president of The New School, who also serves as Chair of the College Board's National Commission on Writing.

Kerry said: "At its best, writing engages and enlightens us, enriching us spiritually. It is a discipline that helps us understand who we are, helping us to acquire and articulate a sense of purpose. Most important of all, effective writing is an instrument of citizenship, as well as scholarship. We are delighted to offer this new program and grateful to Len and Louise Riggio for their generosity, which allows us to open up a whole new world of ideas to young writers."

The New School and the Riggios envision an unparalleled educational opportunity for young people to study the deep-rooted connections between writing and democracy. The nation's set of values, as found in the U.S. Constitution, and the composition of the Supreme Court are sources of urgent contemporary debate, both in how to understand and apply the intentions of the country's framers.

Writing and Democracy students will participate in a three-year sequence of writing workshops, close reading seminars, and colloquia led by distinguished writers and scholars, including Francine Prose, Sam Haselby, Helen Schulman, Deborah Landau, Patricia Carlin, Lynne Tillman, Sigrid Nunez, Suzannah Lessard, Prageeta Sharma, and Rene Steinke, among others (biographies attached). In their last semester, students will submit a final thesis project of a significant work of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

Fall 2006 courses include "Writing Democracy: Fiction Workshop," "Writing Democracy: Poetry Workshop," Writing Democracy: Nonfiction Workshop," Shakespeare, History and Poetry: New World Directions," "Closely Watched Texts," "Reading Word by Word," and "Writer's Life Colloquium."

"The Riggio Writing and Democracy Program reinvents the vital legacies of close reading from a progressive perspective," said Polito. "We increasingly reside in a political culture that doesn't wish us to pay close attention to much of anything, beyond everyday distraction and camouflage. This program seeks to return close reading to the center of the undergraduate curriculum, and return the writer to our country's ongoing social conversation. The Program can provide a template for preparing students, emerging writers, and citizens to be agents of constructive change in the world of ideas and inside their own communities."

About The Graduate Writing Program at The New School

The New School has been a vital center for writing and its instruction since 1931, when Gorham Munson, a Manhattan editor and influential partisan of the Alfred Stieglitz circle, introduced his now-legendary workshop in creative writing. Over seven decades of steady innovation, The New School's writing faculty has featured many of America's most important poets, novelists, literary critics, and editors, including Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Leroi Jones, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, Kay Boyle, Marguerite Young, and Alfred Kazin.

About The New School

Located in the heart of New York's Greenwich Village, The New School is a center of academic excellence where intellectual and artistic freedoms thrive. The 8,800 matriculated students and 10,000 continuing education students who attend the university's eight schools enjoy small class sizes, superior resources, and a renowned faculty whose members practice what they teach. Artists, scholars, and students from all walks of life attend its diverse programs and can earn everything from certificates to bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. When The New School was founded in 1919, its mission was to create a place where global peace and justice were more than theoretical ideals. Today, The New School continues that mission and fosters worthy and just citizens of the world. For more information, please visit www.newschool.edu.

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