Calling all Creatives: Announcing the MacLeish Scholars Program for Upper Mids

Hotchkiss is proud to announce the establishment of the MacLeish Scholars Program. This summer, ten selected upper mid students will spend June 12-27, 2021, at Yale, where they will divide their time between researching literary materials in Yale's Special Collections and writing original creative pieces. Scholars also will have hands-on experience in bookbinding, paper making, and letterpress printing, and will finish the program by designing and creating a book of their own work.

English instructor Jeffrey Blevins developed the program, named in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Archibald MacLeish, Class of 1911, a Yale graduate and author of more than 50 works of poetry, nonfiction, and drama.

“I want to make literature come alive for students,” said Blevins. “By opening up an author's journals, combing through their diaries, perusing their letters, students can step inside an entire literary world: the author's life, what they were thinking, what they wanted, what they hoped.”

Access to a deep archive also gives students all sorts of rich footholds for analysis and study. “Many of the archival holdings at Yale are so vast that our students stand a good chance of encountering materials that have never been studied or written about before now. They'll be contributing to scholarship and human knowledge in a tangible way,” he said.

The main goal of the program is to show students just how interconnected analysis and creativity can be. “To make their way through a complex archive and build an argument out of what they find, students will have to improvise and imagine and create in a sense not all that dissimilar to actual creative writing. In turn, part of the creative writing program will ask them to respond to their research, for instance by writing a fictional book of letters or purposefully draft multiple ‘manuscripts’ of the same story,” Blevins explained.

Who said never judge a book by its cover? In this program, students will learn how the physical form of a book—its color, shape, and texture—can actually complement or even enhance its content. “By making their own paper, setting their own type, and doing their own binding, the hope is that these scholars will gain a better appreciation for books as physical objects, beautiful in and of themselves,” he said.

Blevins will run the program and oversee the students, who will stay in Yale campus residence halls. The scholars will spend their morning in the Yale's Special Collections library, and in the afternoon they will work on their creative writing at different locations, including museums, parks, and beaches. On weekends they'll work with an experienced bookmaker on their books, and they will also go on field trips, including a private tour of the Morgan Library, where they will have a rare opportunity to work with its archival materials for the day.

After the course ends, students will be required to enroll in a new year-long Honors English course with Blevins, in which they will continue their research throughout their senior year, culminating in a long research essay. Students in the course will also continue to work on their creative writing.

Information sessions for students will be held September 29 and October 14. Instructor nominations are due before Thanksgiving break. Nominated students must submit their applications by Dec.19, and selected students will be notified in early March. The School plans to subsidize the cost of the program for all students, and to fully cover the cost for students with financial need. 

For more information, please contact Dr. Blevins.

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