The New Monastics: Creative Community and Literary Form


ACLS Fellowship Program


American Studies


Today, writers’ residencies are a globally ubiquitous form of literary patronage. The origins of this form are both modern and ancient. Beginning around 1900, writers and patrons tried to foster the ideal conditions for creative work in isolated corners of the United States: Cape Cod beaches, remote New Mexico, rural New Hampshire. Inspired by an American impulse to leave home, experiment, and build a better world from the ground up, these communities also recalled monasteries of old. In placing writers on the margins of society, they claimed a special social and spiritual status for literature. Eugene O'Neill, Willa Cather, Carson McCullers, and James Baldwin were a few of the writers who used this outsider status to gain a critical perspective on their own culture. “The New Monastics” is a study of creative community—how people come together to make art, and how cultures are transformed by that project.