Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey was SBC's 2019-20 common read, paired with Madeline Miller's Circe

Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey was SBC's 2019-20 common read, paired with Madeline Miller's Circe

Students receive a 12-week subscription to The New Yorker as the class text for CORE 120: The Mindful Writer

Students receive a 12-week subscription to The New Yorker as the class text for CORE 120: The Mindful Writer

Students draw inspiration from the beautiful and expansive campus

Students draw inspiration from the beautiful and expansive campus

Students in CORE 120 having dinner with New Yorker writer Leslie Jamison

Students in CORE 120 having dinner with New Yorker writer Leslie Jamison

Read. Think. Explore. Imagine. Write.

English and Creative Writing

The English and creative writing program at Sweet Briar College employs a studio curriculum with an emphasis on project-based learning.

Special topics classes across genres — and in new and evolving genres — ask students to engage in directed readings and sustained individual creative projects. We train students to engage with texts in the way that working writers do, dissolving the boundary between critical engagement and creative response and helping students discover that they grow as writers, as readers, and as human beings through explorations of both canonical and contemporary works of literature and through creative practice.

The reading and writing of literature are always in dynamic conversation, and we encourage students to produce work that references both the historical traditions of literature and the contemporary climate. As working writers, our faculty engage in projects that shift and develop over time and are informed by what we’re reading and what we discover as we write, as well as by the changing world around us. We prepare students to live and work as writers and to be more empathetic citizens and competent communicators, no matter what subjects they go on to study or what careers they pursue.


English and Creative Writing Events

Sweet Briar College is pleased to welcome Chloé Cooper Jones to campus on March 27, 2023. Cooper Jones is the author of the memoir Easy Beauty which was selected as the Sweet Briar College Common Read for 2023-24.

Cooper Jones, a philosophy professor, was born with sacral agenesis, a rare congenital condition that affects her mobility. She is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a feature writer published in leading newspapers and journals. In 2020, “Fearing for His Life,” her profile of Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the killing of Eric Garner, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Feature Writing. Cooper Jones received the 2020 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant and the 2021 Howard Foundation Grant from Brown University. Both grants were in support of her 2022 memoir Easy Beauty which describes the author’s experiences—after unexpectedly becoming a mother—as she embarked on a journey across the globe to reclaim the spaces, both physical and emotional, that she’d been denied and denied herself.

Easy Beauty is a powerful, candid, moving account of the author’s journey through life in a body that is different, taking her from memories of childhood to discussions of the aesthetics of beauty, sexuality, body image, motherhood, meditations on how she is seen (or not seen), and on travels ranging from art galleries in Rome, to a Beyoncé concert in Milan, to sites of genocide in Cambodia, and more. Easy Beauty has received laudatory reviews: The New York Times named it a Notable Book of 2022; Vulture called it the “#1 Memoir of 2022;” and it made the Best Books of 2022 lists of the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, BuzzFeed, Publishers Weekly, BookList, and the New York Public Library.

###

The annual Common Read provides the students, faculty, and staff of Sweet Briar with a shared experience, fosters discussion on a wide range of issues, and introduces us all to new perspectives through literature. Recent Common Read selections include Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey by Homer, Madeline Miller’s Circe, and Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work The Sixth Extinction. Copies of Easy Beauty are available to members of the Sweet Briar community. Please contact the Dean’s Office if you still need a copy.

Sweet Briar College is pleased to welcome Chloé Cooper Jones to campus on March 27, 2023. Cooper Jones is the author of the memoir Easy Beauty which was selected as the Sweet Briar College Common Read for 2023-24.

Cooper Jones, a philosophy professor, was born with sacral agenesis, a rare congenital condition that affects her mobility.

She is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a feature writer published in leading newspapers and journals. In 2020, “Fearing for His Life,” her profile of Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the killing of Eric Garner, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Feature Writing.

Cooper Jones received the 2020 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant and the 2021 Howard Foundation Grant from Brown University. Both grants were in support of her 2022 memoir Easy Beauty which describes the author’s experiences—after unexpectedly becoming a mother—as she embarked on a journey across the globe to reclaim the spaces, both physical and emotional, that she’d been denied and denied herself. Easy Beauty is a powerful, candid, moving account of the author’s journey through life in a body that is different, taking her from memories of childhood to discussions of the aesthetics of beauty, sexuality, body image, motherhood, meditations on how she is seen (or not seen), and on travels ranging from art galleries in Rome, to a Beyoncé concert in Milan, to sites of genocide in Cambodia, and more.

Easy Beauty has received laudatory reviews: The New York Times named it a Notable Book of 2022; Vulture called it the “#1 Memoir of 2022;” and it made the Best Books of 2022 lists of the Washington PostLos Angeles TimesUSA TodayTimeBuzzFeedPublishers WeeklyBookList, and the New York Public Library.

###

The annual Common Read provides the students, faculty, and staff of Sweet Briar with a shared experience, fosters discussion on a wide range of issues, and introduces us all to new perspectives through literature. Recent Common Read selections include Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey by Homer, Madeline Miller’s Circe, and Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work The Sixth Extinction.

Copies of Easy Beauty are available to members of the Sweet Briar community. Please contact the Dean’s Office if you still need a copy. 

A reading by poet and novelist Lisa Russ Spaar.

Lisa Russ Spaar is the author of a novel, Paradise Close (Persea, 2022); six acclaimed collections of poetry, including Madrigalia: New & Selected Poems (Persea, 2021), Orexia (Persea, 2017), Vanitas, Rough (Persea, 2013), Satin Cash (Persea, 2008), Blue Venus (Persea, 2004), and Glass Town (Red Hen Press, 1999); and two poetry chapbooks, Blind Boy on Skates (1986) and Cellar (1983). She is also the author of The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry (Drunken Boat Media, 2013), a collection of poetry history and criticism, and she was a 2014 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

She has edited four poetry anthologies, including More Truly and More Strange: 100 Contemporary American Self-Portrait Poems (Persea, 2020), Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Jefferson (University of Virginia Press, 2016), All That Might Heart: London Poems (University of Virginia Press, 2008), and Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems (Columbia University Press, 1999). Spaar has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Library of Virginia Award for Poetry, and a Rona Jaffe Award, among other honors and awards. She is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where for many years she directed the MFA program.

Recent News

Sweet Briar connection shares hidden history of the banjo

Latest Writers Series event provides an in-depth look at narrative nonfiction.

Read More

Two Friends Open the 2023-24 Writers Series with Their Poetry

Sweet Briar event provides them with their first reading together.

Read More