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MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation

The Official MFA Reading List

One of our commitments as an MFA program in Creative Writing and Translation is to immerse ourselves in various literary traditions and to encourage students to see themselves as members of a community of writers practicing a range of different styles, techniques, and writerly strategies.  In the interest of placing student work in dialogue with the work of – in particular – 20th century writers, mostly working in English, mostly in the U.S., we have compiled a list of texts which we expect our students to read in time for their Orals Examination at the end of their four semesters of course work.

The reading list is separated into Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Non-Fiction and Translation. You should make a list of thirty texts: fifteen from your genre of focus, five from another genre, five from the criticism list and five outside texts not on the list of your own choosing.

These reading lists are meant to be an integral part of your writing process, not simply an exam list of required texts.  We hope you will find, among them, a handful of texts that speak directly to your creative project.  Finally, we post these lists in the interest of developing an area of common knowledge that will help generate a shared sense of intellectual and creative community in discussion in and outside the classroom.

Fiction: Short Stories | Novels | Criticisms
Poetry: Poetry | Criticism and Theory of Poetry | Anthologies
Drama: Plays | Criticisms
Non-Fiction: Memoir | Critical/Personal Essays and Reportage | Translation


(In addition to the 20th century works listed below, students are expected to have a general awareness of the history of the novel, beginning with Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji and ranging through the end of the 19th century.  We do not require but strongly encourage students to read a range of works published prior to 1900, with perhaps special reference to British, French, American, and Russian novels – and notable short stories – of the 19th century.)

Short Stories

Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
James Baldwin, Going to Meet the Man
Donald Barthelme, Forty Stories
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions
Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman and Other Tales
Lydia Davis, Break It Down
Mavis Gallant, Home Truths: Selected Canadian Stories
Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
James Joyce, Dubliners
Franz Kafka, The Complete Stories
Katherine Mansfield, The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield
Haruki Murakami, After the Quake
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America
Alice Munro, Selected Stories
Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor
Grace Paley, Complete Stories
Gertrude Stein, Three Lives
Eudora Welty, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
John Edgar Wideman, The Stories of John Edgar Wideman


James Baldwin, Another Country
Willa Cather, My Antonia
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Nadine Gordimer, Burger’s Daughter
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Nella Larsen, Passing
Micheline Aharonian Marcom, The Daydreaming Boy
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater
Juan Rulfo, Pedro Paramo
Salman Rushdie, Shame
Jean Toomer, Cane
John Updike, Rabbit, Run
V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Richard Wright, Native Son



Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House
Madison Smartt Bell, Narrative Design
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark
Frank O’Connor, The Lonely Voice
Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners
Nathalie Sarraute, The Age of Suspicion: Essays on the Novel
Gertrude Stein, “Poetry and Grammar” and “Composition as Explanation



Primary Texts
John Berryman, The Dream Songs
Elizabeth Bishop, Geography III
Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected
Rita Dove, Thomas and Beulah
T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
Martin Espada, The Republic of Poetry
Allen Ginsberg, HOWL
Louise Gluck, The Wild Iris
Joy Harjo, She Had Some Horses
Linda Hogan, The Book of Medicines
Langston Hughes, Selected
Galway Kinnell, The Book of Nightmares
Bill Knott, [see his webite:]
Yusef Komunyakaa, The Pleasure Dome
Philip Levine, What Work Is
Robert Lowell, Life Studies
Marianne Moore, Selected
Paul Muldoon, Moy Sand and Gravel
Marilyn Nelson, Wreath for Emmett Till
Sharon Olds, The Father
Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons
Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language
Alberto Rios, The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body
Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead
Sylvia Plath, Ariel
Anne Sexton, Transformations
C.K. Williams, Selected
William Carlos Williams, Selected
Charles Wright, Chickamauga
(NOTE: for Selected, read at least the latter half.)

Criticism and Theory of Poetry

T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and Individual Talent
Sigmund Freud, “Creative Writers and Daydreaming
Seamus Heaney, “Feeling Into Words
Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain
Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury
Marjorie Perloff, The Poetics of Indeterminacy
Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken
Muriel Rukeyeser, The Life of Poetry
Gertrude Stein, “Poetry and Grammar
Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens
CD Wright, Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil
[Also see the introductions to the anthologies below.]


Anonymous/ Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, Judy Yung, eds., Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940
Agha Shahid Ali, Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals
Kurt Brown and Harold Schechter, eds., Conversation Pieces
Eavan Boland and Mark Strand, eds., The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms
David Lehman, ed., Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present
Phillis Levin, ed., The Penguin Book of the Sonnet
Donald Allen and George F. Butterick, eds., The Postmoderns: The New American Poetry Revised
Camille Paglia, ed., Break Blow Burn



Aeschylus, The Agamemnon
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Krapp’s Last Tape
Bertolt Brecht, Baal, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagony, Mother Courage, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Anton Chekhov, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, and The Three Sisters
Caryl Churchill, Top Girls and Cloud Nine
Euripides, Hippolytus, and The Bacchae
William Finn, Falsettos
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder, and The Wild Duck
Tony Kushner, Angels in America and Caroline, or Change
Neal Labute, The Distance from Here
Tracy Letts, August: Osage County
David Mamet, American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, Oleana, and Speed the Plow
Arthur Miller, All My Sons and Death of a Salesman
Moliere, The Miser and The Misanthrope
Marsha Norman, ‘Night Mother
Suzan-Lori Parks, Tog Dog/Underdog
Eugene O’Neill, A Long Day’s Journey into Night
Harold Pinter, The Birthday Party, The Homecoming, and Betrayal
Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author
Jean Racine, Phaedre
Sam Shepard, Red Cross, La Turista, Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, and True West
William Shakespeare, The Complete Plays
George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara and Heartbreak House
Stephen Sondheim, Company, Follies, and Sweeney Todd
Sophocles, The Oedipus Trilogy (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone)
Tom Stoppard, Arcadia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Rock ‘n’ Roll
August Strindberg, Miss Julie, The Father, and The Dream Play
Paula Vogel, How I Leaned to Drive
Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire
August Wilson, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Fences


Aristotle, The Poetics
Antonin Artaud, “The Theatre of Cruelty” and “The Theatre and the Plague
Eric Bentley, The Life of the Drama and The Playwright as Thinker
Henri Bergson, “On Laughter
Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre (trans. John Willett)
Peter Brook, The Empty Space
Joseph Chaikin, “The Presence of the Actor
Horace, “The Art of Poetry
Hekrik Ibsen, Letters on the Theatre
Gotthold Lessing, “Hamburg Dramaturgy
David Mamet, Writing in Restaurants and Three Uses of the Knife
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
Jean Racine, “Prefaces” to Andromache and Phaedra
George Steiner, The Death of Tragedy
Stendahl, “Racine” and “Shakespeare
Maurice Valency, The Flower and the Castle and The Breaking String
Emile Zola, “Naturalism in the Theatre



Kathleen Alcalá, The Desert Remembers My Name
Tom Bissell, The Father of All Things
Jenny Boully, The Book of Beginnings and Endings
Truman Capote, Music for Chameleons
Mark Doty, Heaven’s Coast
Francisco Goldman, The Art of Political Murder
Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face
Mary Karr, Cherry
Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior
Gregory Orr, The Blessing
Chuck Palahniuk, Stranger Than Fiction
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty
Samuel Pepys, The Unqualified Self
Andrew Pham, Catfish and Mandala
John Rechy, About My Life and the Kept Woman
Paisley Rekdal, The Day My Mother Met Bruce Lee
Sharman Apt Russell, An Obsession with Butterflies
Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican
Leslie Marmon Silko, Yellow Woman and the Beauty of the Spirit
Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Critical/Personal Essays and Reportage

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem
Pico Iyer, The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home
James Baldwin, Notes on a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name
Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia
Mike Davis, City of Quartz
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album
Andrew Holleran, Ground Zero
Elizabeth Hardwick, Seduction and Betrayal
Norman Mailer, Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song
Janet Malcolm, In the Freud Archives
Mary McCarthy, A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia, and A Collection of Essays
Ishmael Reed, Airing Dirty Laundry
Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation, Styles of Radical Will, and On Photography
Gore Vidal, United States
Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
Edmund Wilson, Axel’s Castle
Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test


William Arrowsmith & Roger Shattuck, The Craft, and Context of Translation
Mona Baker, In Other Words: A Course Book on Translation)
John Felstiner, Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu
David Halpern, Dante’s Inferno: translations by twenty contemporary poets
Edwin Honig, The Poet's Other Voice: Conversations on Literary Translation
Donald Keene, Japanese Literature: an introduction for Western readers
Clifford E. Landers, Literary Translation, A Practical Guide  
Peter H. Lee, The Silence of Love: twentieth-century Korean poetry
Andre Lefevere and Susan Bassnett.  Translation, History, and Culture
James J.U. Liu, The Art of Chinese Poetry
Earl Miner, Japanese Poetic Diaries
Ivan Morris, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
Manuela Perteghella and Eugenia Loffredo, Translation and Creativity: Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies
Gregory Rabassa, The World of Translation, PEN American Center
--- If this be treason: translation and its discontents (a memoir).
Douglas Robinson, Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation 
Hiroaki Sato, String of Beads: complete poems of Princess Shikishi
Rainer Schulte and Biguenet, The Craft of Translation
Rainer Schulte and Biguenet, Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida
Edward G. Seidensticker, Genji Days
George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation  
Leslie Marmon Silko, Yellow Woman and the Beauty of the Spirit
Issues of Translation Review and Circumference: a bi-annual journal of poetry translation   


 Office Information

Nicole Cooley, MFA Director
Creative Writing and Literary Translation
Department of English
Office: Klapper 702
Phone: 718-997-4671


Open House

Join us at our Open House
Wednesday, December 10
More Info​

New MFA Bulletin Blog

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Fall 2014 Events

Literary Legacies
Lynn Emanuel and Terrance Hayes
Q&A facilitated by Zakia Henderson-Brown
Co-sponsored by The Poetry Society of America
Wednesday, October 8, 6:30 pm
Klapper Hall, Godwin-Ternbach Museum

A Reading by Novelist Maud Casey
Co-sponsored by Writing at Queens
Thursday, October 23, 6:30 pm
Klapper Hall, Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Reading Across Cultures:
Poetry and Conversation
Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Willie Perdomo
Q&A facilitated by John Murillo
Co-sponsored by Cave Canem Foundation
Monday, November 10, 6:30 pm
Klapper Hall, Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Book Launch for
Guillaume de Fonclare's
Inside My Own Skin

Translated by Yves Henri Cloarec
Winner of the 2014
Loose Translations Award
Thursday, December 4, 6:30 pm
Klapper Hall, Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Inside My Own Skin Poster

MFA Program in Creative Writing &
Literary Translation Open House
Wednesday, December 10, 5 pm
Klapper Hall 710

All events are free and open to the public.
Readings will be followed by receptions and book signings.



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