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Faculty spotlight: Paul La Farge

Paul La Farge is a professor of Literature and Creative Writing at Bennington College. He is currently teaching Horror Fiction and Film and will teach Tristram Shandy and the Pointless Novel in the second seven-weeks of the fall semester. Though he taught a class in the 2015 spring semester, this term is his first as a permanent faculty member.

A New York City native and Yale Graduate, in the last twenty years Prof. La Farge has taught at a number of institutions, including Columbia, Bard, Sarah Lawrence, Wesleyan, and the University of Leipzig. Prior to teaching, he worked as a Web designer as a means of financial support while getting started on his writing career. 

Aside from teaching, La Farge is also working on several short stories and a novel. One short story, in particular, has been lingering for some time in the trappings of his mind. 

“It looks at me reproachfully,” he says, “but doesn’t say anything.” 

His most recent novel is The Night Ocean, published in 2017. The story is heavily influenced by the lives of H.P. Lovecraft and his constituents, and dives into the mysteries, scandals, and disturbed experiences of its characters. These include the fictional Marina Willett and her husband, the latter of which develops an obsession for H.P. Lovecraft and the intricacies of his life. 

In the story, Marina’s husband, Charlie, obsessively attempts to unravel the mysterious relationship between H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Barlow. Just as he is on the verge of discovering the missing pieces in an intricate puzzle, a new scandal erupts (spoiler warning); Charlie has apparently committed suicide, but Marina believes otherwise. In an attempt to learn the truth, she crosses the continent over a span of decades to put together the fragments of her uprooted marriage as she follows the trail of her missing husband. 

Upon beginning the research process, La Farge was introduced to a rabbit hole of twentieth-century science fiction and its corresponding fandoms. These provided additional material which he utilized in his character writing. He says, “I was able to write about my made-up characters as if I were keeping a diary.” 

Other works by Prof. La Farge include The Artist of the Missing (1999), Haussman, or the Distinction (2001), The Facts of Winter (2005), and Luminous Airplanes (2011). He has also written various reviews and essays that are published in sources like The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Village Voice. He is an award-winning author and holds the fourth annual Bard Fiction Prize, honored by Bard College.

When asked what advice he gives to those pursuing a career in this field, he says to first ask yourself, “Is this something I love doing?” He stresses that writing is a lengthy process, and it is important to find both pleasure and passion in everything one creates in order to persist through the journey. “If you love writing, you’ll have the patience to make your work good… and the world will come around.”

His favorite part of teaching is the conversations that take place in the classroom. He relishes in student discussions and hearing everyone’s perspective on the given essay or book assignments. The unique ideas and interpretations that students bring to the table enables the discussion to take unexpected twists and turns, which excites him the most.

La Farge looks forward to returning to campus in person. He misses the community and is excited to be reunited with students in the classroom, dining hall, and scenic outdoors.

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