Alumni Spotlight | Aaron Hamburger (Writing '01)

Was there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?

Binnie Kirshenbaum was instrumental in inspiring not only me but also so many of my classmates while I was studying fiction writing at SoA. Her combination of warmth, wisdom, and straight talk helped me to understand where my writing worked and where it needed improvement. And her manner and practice as an educator has continued to inspire me as I have gone on to teach creative writing.

How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?
In so many ways. My MFA served as a foundation for everything I have learned and done since. The experience of close reading Chekhov and Grace Paley with Richard Locke, or workshopping fiction with Mary Gordon, or working one-on-one with Ben Marcus in an independent study all worked to develop key critical thinking skills. My time at SoA was not so much about the transference of bits of information as it was teaching me how to frame and ask the right questions for whatever I would read and write in the future.

What were the most pressing social/political issues on the minds of the students when you were here?   
Certainly issues related to identity of all kinds were on people's minds.

What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?
I would say all my workshops were terrific, yet the class I keep going back to is 20th Century Non-Fiction and Fiction taught by Richard Locke. Before that class, I read literature as a fan. Richard Locke taught me to read as a fellow practitioner, a necessary mental shift that transformed me from an amateur to a professional.

About Aaron Hamburger
Aaron Hamburger's first book, a story collection titled The View from Stalin’s Head, was published by Random House and was awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novel Faith for Beginners (Random House) was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. His fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in such venues as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Village Voice, Tin House, Tablet, The Forward, Boulevard, Subtropics, Poets and Writers, Carolina Quarterly, Nerve, Time Out, Details, and Michigan Quarterly Review. In addition, he has also received fellowships from the Edward F. Albee Foundation and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation as well as residencies from Yaddo and Djerassi Artists Program. He has taught creative writing at Columbia University, NYU, the Stonecoast MFA Program, and the George Washington University.
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.