Writing Against the Grain

Dr. Edna Bonhomme
Writing Against the Grain

Seminar, English, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
7 Sessions, Wednesdays, 12-16 h: 17.4., 24.4. (ATTENTION: 14-16 h, room 151), 15.5. (online), 29.5. (online), 12.6., 26.6., 10.7.2024,
Hardenbergstraße 33, room 150

Registration on Moodle starts 15.04.2024 / Anmeldung auf Moodle beginnt am 15.04.2024:
Moodle Enrollment Key / Einschreibeschlüssel: writing

The goal is to expand both new and experienced writers’ vocabulary and ideas around the visual arts by developing curiosity, depth, and empathy for African diasporic subjects. As such, the first part of the course will explore how historical amnesia persists in art writing from the early twentieth century until today, and the second part of the course will function as an art writing course where students will lean into art writing and criticism. For the first portion of the course, participants will read art criticism from the early twentieth century to the present and centre on art's historical representation or absence of Black subjects and how we can work through art criticism today. While historical analysis will play a key in the course, we will explore how the erasure or misrepresentation of Black artists and subjects persists in press releases, catalogue essays, exhibition reviews, interviews, and artist statements. Participants will be expected to read the texts and discuss them in class.

The second part of the course will be styled as a writing workshop. During this portion of the course, students will begin with the foundations and mechanics of art writing, an overview of specialised techniques, and audience considerations, while taking care to understand the historical amnesia that has existed for marginalized subjects. At the core of the course is refining form, style, voice, and narrative. We will also discuss how pitches to art magazines can be shaped to get texts published. Throughout the course, students will write art criticism not just to find new creative forms but for what it can contribute to the art world in a deeper way. Students will produce several short-form art writing: experimental vignettes, exhibition reviews, and auto-fiction stories. The final paper will be to complete a polished piece of writing in the form of an exhibition review.

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credit points / Leistungsanforderungen für den unbenoteten Studium-Generale-Schein: regular attendance, active participation, 2 short art essays, 1 art exhibition review.

Edna Bonhomme is a historian of science, a culture writer, and a book critic based in Berlin. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Esquire, Frieze, The Guardian, The London Review of Books, and The Nation, among others. She is co-editor of After Sex, a collection of essays, poems, and short stories illuminating “why people need free and universal access to abortion – without apology” (Silver Press, 2023). Moreover, she’s the author of A History of the World in Six Plagues, a nonfiction book that explores the relationship between captivity and contagion (Simon and Schuster, 2024). Edna holds awards and fellowships from the Max Planck Institute for History of Science, the Ludwig Maximilian Universität, the Camargo Foundation, and the Baldwin for the Arts. Most recently, Edna received the 2023 Robert Silvers Foundation Grant for Works in Progress and the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writing Grant. She holds a PhD in History of Science from Princeton University.