Literary Amherst

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tune without the words – and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

The Writing College

Amherst is often called a singing college, but I was drawn here, in part, because it’s also known as a writing college. Literary arts remain at the core of the liberal arts at Amherst, and I’m confident they always will.”
—Biddy Martin, 19th President of Amherst College

Amherst College is one of the world’s premier writing colleges, with an enviable literary legacy. Our outstanding faculty and alumni include influential and award-winning novelists, poets, journalists, and critics, and our renowned literary publications are read around the world.

Throughout its 200-year history, Amherst has been closely associated with writers such as Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur ’42, James Merrill ’47, David Foster Wallace ’85, Dan Brown ’86, and Lauren Groff ’01, among many others. Each year we welcome to campus distinguished authors of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for readings, conversations, and master classes as part of the Visiting Writer’s Series and LitFest, the College’s annual literary festival.

Amherst College LitFest

LitFest 2022

The 7th annual literary festival illuminating great writing and Amherst College’s literary life: Thursday, February 24–Sunday, February 27, 2022

Creative Writing at Amherst College

Judith Frank talks about what it takes to succeed as a writer and touches on what students can expect from the creative writing program at Amherst College.

headshots of visiting writers

The Creative Writing Center: Visiting Writers

The Creative Writing Center organizes the Visiting Writer’s Series, which brings high profile authors of fiction and poetry to the College for readings and book signings throughout the academic year.

THE COMMON Literary Magazine

The Common Issue 12

A global, award-winning publication based at Amherst College.

The Common publishes place-based literature and art from around the world in handsome print and digital editions, and mentors 12 Amherst students each year as part of its Literary Publishing Internship Program.

The Common

The Emily Dickinson Connection

Amherst College is home to the largest and most varied holdings related to poet Emily Dickinson anywhere in the world. The College’s Archives and Special Collections and the Emily Dickinson Museum contain thousands of her manuscripts, letters and personal objects. The holdings also highlight the faculty, students, and other members of the College community who played some role in Dickinson’s social and intellectual development.

The College also maintains the Emily Dickinson Museum, which consists of the poet’s own home, where she wrote almost all of her poetry, and her brother’s house next door. The Museum hosts guided tours and special events, including the annual Amherst Poetry Festival in which all 1,789 of Emily Dickinson’s poems are read. 

Archives and Special Collections

hands holding small books

A trove of rare books and materials.

Since 1851, Archives and Special Collections has amassed the physical history of Amherst College, including major collections of works by Emily Dickinson and Richard Wilbur ’42, and extensive holdings of works by alumni and other poets and writers.

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Folger Shakespeare Library

Shakespeare First Folio

The world’s preeminent institution for the study of Shakespeare.

Amherst College administers the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., founded in 1930 by Amherst alumnus Henry Clay Folger, class of 1879.

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Six people posing together 3 sitting on a couch, 3 standing, all holding books and smiling

Top Five LitFest Moments

Jennifer Acker ’00, editor-in-chief of The Common and LitFest’s lead organizer, picks her favorite moments from prior years of this popular annual literary festival.