Writing & Oral Traditions

Discover your authentic voice and create compelling written work.

Programs Offered:

Master of Arts: 36 Credits

For Teachers: Planned 30-Credit Program (Sixth-Year Equivalent)

   Overview  

 

The two-year Master of Arts in Writing and Oral Traditions program is for anyone interested in:


•    Learning how stories influence the way we think, feel, act and behave
•    Exploring the creative process and their own creativity
•    Understanding the power and application of narrative storytelling
•    Being part of a motivated and close-knit learning community
•    Melding self-directed learning with invigorating classroom learning
•    Publishing or otherwise bringing their stories to life


Meeting just 1-2 weekends a month (Friday 5-9 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), students in this groundbreaking program work with best-selling authors, award-winning oral storytellers, recognized playwrights, acclaimed literary critics and renowned scholars to examine the historical, cultural, sociological, anthropological, psychological and mythological foundations of storytelling. The origins of language, our society's evolution from an oral to written culture, and how stories--both from the ancient past and modern day--help us connect, understand, transform and survive are among the many topics tackled. 


Rigorous cohort-based explorations of fiction, non-fiction and other forms of writing allow students to discover and explore their interests, while mentored, independent study lets them immerse themselves in their area of choice. Recognizing that successful writers need both independent creative space and a welcoming, supportive environment, the program provides a carefully monitored balance of autonomy and community, with each participant's creative goals always part of the mix.
At The Graduate Institute, we realize, respect and celebrate that each writer has a unique voice and view of the world.

Thus, throughout the program, you'll be encouraged to develop your own individual writing voice and style, as well as consider the impact a narrative can have on both author and audience. For all projects, you'll be mentored through each stage of the often-challenging creation and revision process. 


Whether your goal is to become a confident, engaging oral storyteller, or to write a book or screenplay, the MA in Writing and Oral Traditions program will provide time-tested methods for bringing stories to life through the spoken and written word.

Career Idea:

By taking the Master of Arts in Writing and Oral Traditions in combination with the Coaching With Spirit Coach Training program, you can specialize in Storytelling Coaching

Curriculum

Course content in the Master of Arts Degree in Writing and Oral Traditions is delivered via four unique learning modules, each of which culminates with a retreat. Classes meet one weekend per month (Friday from 5 to 9 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm) and for one full week (Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm) in each of two summers. The degree is completed in 24 months. 

 

Module 1: Orality Informs the Writer

Module 2: The Uniqueness of Voice

Module 3: Cultural Sources for Writing

Module 4: The Inner Life of Publishing

Courses and Descriptions (36 Credits):

OT 501: Oral Traditions: Medium and Inquiry - 3 credits

Throughout history, oral tradition has been the primary method for communicating information and transferring knowledge between individuals, across generations, and throughout cultures. This course introduces the emerging field of oral tradition and provides an examination of representative oral literature. Students assess the impact of oral traditions on the development of complex syntax and grammar structures and the emergence of written literature. Special attention is paid to the relationship between oral traditions and contemporary thought.

OT 502: Myth: Ancient and Modern - 3 credits

This course examines the influence of mythology on the evolution of culture. Students examine the mythical origins that have impacted the development and trajectory of diverse religious and scientific approaches, as well as their impact on evolving psychological and sociological frameworks. Students examine Greek, Roman, Norse, European, Native American, African, and Asian mythology in order to gain insight into the nature of human experience and the relationship between humankind and the forces that drive the universe. The mythologies of both past and present societies are explored.

OT 503: Folktales and Culture - 3 credits

In this course, students examine folktales as comparative literature. They analyze examples of various folktale forms, including fables, legends, fairy tales, allegories, and stories that are transmitted through sermons, ballads, and song. Throughout their analyses and interpretations of the works, students pay special attention to the function of the folktale within the culture and investigate its relationship to the customs and ceremonies of the time.

OT 505: Children’s Literature - 3 credits

Oral traditions not only promote the large-scale evolution of language and culture, they also influence the linguistic and social development of individual members of society – from birth through adolescence and adulthood. In this course, students explore the history and evolution of children’s literature from the 19th to 21st centuries. Recited rhymes, popular tales, and written texts are examined, with an emphasis on stories that support the development of individual identity and communication skills. Contemporary literature for children and young adults is also examined from the perspective of the writer’s art and craft.

OT 508: Therapeutic Processes of Orality - 3 credits

How we envision and interpret the unfolding narrative of our lives has a tremendous impact on our personal sense of well-being and our relationship to society at large. This course investigates the therapeutic applications of writing and oral traditions – from the management of physical and psychological health, to the resolution of conflict in professional and social relationships, to the alleviation of discord within whole societies. Students learn to harness the power of the spoken and written word through affirmative, expressive, and transformative language, metaphors, and imagery.

OT 509: Cultural Diversity and Unity - 3 credits

The rich culture and heritage of ethnic communities are reflected in the scope and diversity of world literature and oral traditions. In this course, students are encouraged to use writing and oral tradition as mechanisms for cross-cultural understanding. The oral traditions of various African, Asian, European, Hispanic, Jewish and Native American groups are explored, with a focus on the significance of such traditions in an emerging multicultural society. Students are introduced to oral traditions that have been used to preserve cultural knowledge, subvert dominant or oppressive groups, and cultivate intercultural problem-solving.

OT 511: Mentorship - 3 credits

The value of mentorship in the field of writing and oral tradition cannot be overemphasized – whether students are interested in developing specific skills and techniques in understanding the power of language and narrative, or in exploring another area of this vast field. The mentorship must fall within a pre-selected area of interest and need, and should demonstrate professional development and personal growth through disciplined inquiry. The mentorship is conducted with a leader in the field of writing and oral traditions, and requires a minimum of 90 hours of contact time. Systematic journal writing, a comprehensive written report, and an oral presentation are required to document the experience and provide an assessment of new learning derived as a result of the mentorship experience.

OT 512: Culminating Project - 3 credits

Each student is required to research, design, and present a culminating project in a specific area of interest in the field of writing and oral tradition. The project, which may include a documented performance, should demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the field and should reflect the insights gained during the Mentorship (OT 511) and Field Research (OT 513); integrating the skills, knowledge, and understanding accrued during the experiential components of the program. The project may include a performance or exhibition. All students are required to submit a comprehensive written report on the development and execution of the culminating project, and to effect an oral presentation to their cohort and a Juried Review Committee.

In addition, each student is required to submit a creative manuscript in a genre of choice. The manuscript should provide context or reflect a thematic element present in the culminating project, enabling a meaningful integration of academic research and creative writing.

OT 513: Field Research - 3 credits

This course provides an opportunity for personal, hands-on examination of contemporary applications of writing and the oral traditions and the issues surrounding the field. Through research, students learn to balance tradition and innovation in applied storytelling, and they discover the many ways that “performance arenas” function in everyday situations. An analytical research paper is required in which program participants describe the purpose of the research, delineate an extensive literature review, conduct an appropriate methodological procedure, collect and analyze data, and report all findings.

OT 515: Narrative Voice - 3 credits

This course explores the rich phenomenon of voice for its myriad functions in establishing point of view, revealing tone and theme, reflecting character, propelling narrative trajectory, and creating the overarching medium through which story is conveyed. By examining narrative voice in oral poetry and story, students will uncover many of the foundational structures and techniques that establish voice in its written context. The courses also focuses on the connection between narrative voice and the spoken word, with particular focus on oral processes for stimulating ideas as well as critique feedback. Emphasis is placed on processes that support revision and the strengthening of a written work through the construct of narrative voice.

OT 516: Narrative Structure: Cross-Genre Applications - 3 credits

Varied applications of narrative structure in written form are explored in-depth in this course. From poetry, non-fiction, screenwriting, playwriting, short story, the novel, and more, students study the function and form of narrative structure in diverse genres. Narrative is examined as an art, technique, and process that connects from the spoken to written word. Students are encouraged to engage in the construction of narrative in a wide variety of genres while simultaneously developing and structuring ideas in a specific genre of interest.

OT 517: Cultural Sources for Writing and Publishing - 3 credits

Writing and publishing technologies are examined for their role in transforming humankind’s relationship with language and the transmission of ideas and culture. The history and progress of writing and publishing are explored, with emphasis on their emergence from a tradition of the spoken word. The culture of writing and publishing are assessed as an industry, as well as a cultural phenomenon reflecting the changing mores, ideologies, and priorities of an evolving world. Both digital and traditional print media are also examined as vehicles for contracting, publishing, and distributing books.

   Faculty  

 

The faculty for the Master of Arts Degree in Writing and Oral Traditions is comprised of award-winning writers, editors, oral specialists, and instructors from across the U.S. 

ACADEMIC DIRECTOR

Lisa Worth Huber, Ph.D.

Biography

Lisa Worth Huber, Ph.D., is a peacebuilder, consultant, facilitator, storyteller, and writer dedicated to creating compassionate communities and imagining new futures. A peace educator and participatory action researcher, Lisa focuses on narrative and storytelling as vital tools for empathy development. She works with a variety of organizations, and teaches in universities, K-12 classrooms, homeless shelters, safe houses, and with youth at-risk, incorporating the arts as a means to give voice to the silenced, address injustice, foster understanding, and nurture compassion. Lisa blends story in its myriad forms—theatre, poetry, prose, storytelling, comic books, and graphic novels—with social justice and environmental concerns to inspire the development of creative activism and ecological stewardship. Currently, Lisa serves as Chair for the Board of Directors of the National Peace Academy and on the Advisory Council for the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence. She is a specialist in community peacebuilding and conflict resolution and is certified and trained in a variety of dialogue and peacebuilding practices from restorative justice to Kingian Nonviolence. Her doctorate is in Peace and Conflict Transformation from Lancaster University in the U.K. She is honored to be the first recipient of the Frank McCourt Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

FACULTY

Kerri Arsenault, MFA

Biography

Kerri Arsenault, MFA, serves on the National Book Critics Circle Board and her writings have appeared in Freeman’s, Kirkus Reviews, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Oprah.com, among other publications. She is also a columnist at Lithub.com and Book Editor for Journal of the North Atlantic and Arctic. Her forthcoming book, What Remains (Picador), about a small paper mill town in Western Maine, focuses on social and environmental justice and the working class of America. Kerri received her MFA in Creative Writing Nonfiction from The New School and previously studied in the Master programme in Communication for Development, Malmö University, Sweden, an interdisciplinary program analyzing the interplay between politics, media, information and communication technology, international development, diversity, conflict resolution, and theories of social change within the context of globalization.

Jeff Bens, MA, MFA

Biography

Professor and Chairman of English at Manhattanville College, Director of Manhattanville's Undergraduate Creative Writing Program and a Professor of graduate creative writing, Jeff Bens is the author of the novel “Albert, Himself” (Delphinium Books) and director of the award-winning documentary film “Fatman's.” His short fiction and essays are published widely. Jeff was a founding faculty member of the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and has served on film festival juries around the world.

Peter Concilio, CAS

Biography

After a career of than 34 years as a high school teacher and department chair in Language Arts and Film Studies in Weston, Connecticut, Peter retired to Vermont where he lectures on film and jazz studies in the Osher program at Dartmouth. He holds a Masters Degree from Niagara University. and a Certificate of Advanced Studies from Fairfield University. Peter has been involved in the production of both full-length fiction and documentary films. Peter is an accomplished jazz musician, directs a summer festival, and regularly performs with his jazz trio.

Heather Forrest, Ph.D.

Biography

An award-winning recording artist, Heather Forest has recorded eight albums of storytelling. Songspinner: Folktales and Fables Sung and Told won a 1982 National Library Association Notable Record Award. Tales of Womenfolk, a collection of feminist folktales, features courageous and resourceful heroines from world folklore. Two collections of musical folktales for younger listeners, both Sing Me A Story and Tales Around the Hearth, present classic nursery stories and have received the National Parenting Publications Gold Award for 2006. Her recording, The Eye of the Beholder, featuring a unique musical version of “ Beauty and the Beast” won the 1993 Parent's Choice Gold Classic Award. Her musical collection of Aesop's fables, The Animals Could Talk, published with a libretto, won a 1994 Parent's Choice Gold Award.Wonder Tales from Around the World, with cello accompaniment by Emily Metcalf received a 1996 Storytelling World Honor RecordingAward. Its sequel, World Tale of Wisdom & Wonder received a 2003Storytelling World Honor Recording Award.

John Grim, Ph.D.

Biography

John Grim is the Coordinator of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with Mary Evelyn Tucker, and they are series editors of “World Religions and Ecology” from Harvard Divinity School's Center for the Study of World Religions. He has taught courses in Native American and Indigenous religions, World Religions, and Religion and Ecology. 

 

His published works include: The Shaman: Patterns of Religious Healing Among the Ojibway Indians (University of Oklahoma Press, 1983) and an edited volume with Mary Evelyn Tucker entitled Worldviews and Ecology (Orbis, 1994, 5th printing 2000), and a Daedalus volume (2001) entitled, Religion and Ecology: Can the Climate Change? John is also President of the American Teilhard Association (www.teilharddechardin.org).

 

In 2009, he edited, with Mary Evelyn Tucker, Thomas Berry's last collection of essays titled, The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth published by Orbis Books in 2009.  They are Executive Producers of the Emmy-award winning film, Journey of the Universe, which they made with the mathematical cosmologist, Brian Swimme.

Linda H. Humes, Ed.D.

Biography

Linda H. Humes is an adjunct professor in the Africana Studies Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. As a media and education consultant, she works on multimedia projects and conducts training in personal development, literacy, culturally relevant education, diversity training, team building, and conflict resolution. Ms. Humes is the founder of Yaffa Cultural Arts Inc., a Not-for-Profit Arts in Education organization based in New York City. She was given the honorary title of Jaliya Kuumba from the legendary Suso family of storytellers in the Gambia, West Africa. She lives up to this title by using storytelling to entertain, educate, motivate, and empower. Ms. Humes attended Stony Brook University from 1973 to 1977 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science and Africana Studies in 1977. She attended New York University from 1987 to 1989 and graduated with a Masters of Arts in Arts Administration in 1989. She came to St. John Fisher College in the Spring of 2013 and began doctoral studies in the Ed.D. program in Executive Leadership. Ms. Humes pursued her research in African American storytelling in urban public schools under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Schulman and Dr. Janet B. Lyons and received the Ed.D. degree in 2016.

Leslie McGrath, MFA

Biography

Leslie McGrath is the author of three full-length poetry collections, Feminists Are Passing from Our Lives (Word Works, 2018), Out from the Pleiades (Jaded Ibis, 2014) and Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage (Main St Rag, 2009), and two chapbooks. Winner of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Gretchen Warren Prize from the New England Poetry Club, she has been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as funding from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts and the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation. McGrath’s poems and literary interviews have been published widely, including in Agni, Poetry magazine, The Academy of American Poets, The Writer’s Chronicle, and The Yale Review.

 

McGrath is the current judge of the Yeats Prize in Poetry and is the series editor of The Tenth Gate Prize with the Word Works, which is dedicated to promoting the work of poets in mid-career.

Connie Rockman, M.L.S.

Biography

Connie Rockman is a children's literature consultant and adjunct professor of literature for children and young adults at the University of Bridgeport, Scared Heart University, and Manhattanville College. She is the editor of the 8th, 9th, and 10th books in the H. W. Wilson Junior Authors and Illustrators series.

PROGRAM COORDINATOR

Robin Moore, M.A.

Biography

A professional performer, author, and workshop leader, Robin Moore was voted “Storyteller of the Year” by Storytelling Magazine and has shared his stories with more than one million people. Since 1981, he has presented more than 5,000 educational offerings that include storytelling performances, writing workshops, and family programs based on the rich folklore of Pennsylvania, where he grew up.  He was named Pennsylvania School Librarian’s “Author of the Year” and has taught his innovative approach to "Awakening the Hidden Storyteller" at many institutions, including The University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Omega Institute.  Author of several award winning books published by HarperCollins, Random House, and Simon & Schuster, Robin is best known for The Bread Sister of Sinking Creek, the first in a series of historical fiction novels about women on the PA frontier.  He holds a Master of Arts in Oral Traditions from The Graduate Institute.  “Robin’s ability to portray characters with the subtle use of voice and gesture as well as his talent for involving his audiences is second to none on the East Coast. He ranks with the best of today’s professional storytellers.”—Dr. Kenneth Goldstein, Chairman, Department of Folklore, University of Pennsylvania.  Visit his website at robin-moore.com.

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The Graduate Institute

Programs

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Bethany, CT 06524

United States

Phone: (203) 874-4252

Fax:      (203) 874-8070

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