A native of San Francisco, Gretchen E. Henderson writes across genres and the arts to invigorate her critical and creative practices. Her newest book is Ugliness: A Cultural History (just out from Reaktion Books of London/University of Chicago Press). Her other books include two novels, The House Enters the Street (Starcherone Books, 2012, finalist for the AWP Award Series in the Novel and the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award) and Galerie de Difformité (&NOW Books, winner of the Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Prize, also a Nobbie Best Book of 2011), as well as a critical volume about literary appropriations of music and silence, On Marvellous Things Heard (Green Lantern Press, 2011), and a poetry chapbook engaging cartographic history, Wreckage: By Land & By Sea (Dancing Girl Press, 2011). Her nonfiction, fiction, poetry, scholarship, and hybrid writings have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and published in a wide range of journals and anthologies, including The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review, The Journal of Artists’ Books, The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing (both volumes I and II), Ugliness: The Non-Beautiful in Art and Theory, Performance Research, and a number of other publications. Recent interview appearances include NPR, Australian National Radio, Irish National Radio, and Georgetown University Forum. Her work has been reviewed widely, most recently in The New Yorker (“illuminating … artful… exciting”), Literary Review (“provocative” … “essential”), Macleans (“lively … impressive … terrific”), TIME Magazine (“look no further”), and the Guardian (“a fascinating meditation … absorbing … generous”).
Gretchen’s recent positions include Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at MIT, MetaLAB Fellow at Harvard University, Kresge Faculty Fellow at UCSC, Mary Catherine Mooney Fellow at the Boston Athenaeum, Everett Helm Visiting Fellow at Indiana University’s Lilly Library, and Affiliated Scholar in Art History and English at Kenyon College. Her work has been heavily influenced by residencies at artist colonies (most recently the Millay Colony), by collaborative practice, by cross-disciplinary inquiries, and by teaching at a number of colleges and universities. Her recent courses include “Writing and the Museum” and “Creative Writing: An Archaeology” (at Georgetown University), “Creative Writing and Visual Culture” and “(un)Writing the Book” (at MIT), and “The Art of Text” and “The Literary Hybrid/Book Arts” (at the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop), among others. She has taught a wide range of creative writing and literature courses at various universities and also regularly gives invited lectures and readings, including Hamilton College, New York University, Princeton University, Hampshire College, New York Art Book Fair @ PS1/MoMA, and elsewhere. Working at the intersection of literature, art history, museum studies, disability studies, digital humanities, music, and environmental studies, her research explores aesthetics of deformity, museology as narrative strategy, poetics of (dis)embodiment / (in)accessibility / author(ity), literary appropriations of music, and the body of the book.
Gretchen holds degrees from Princeton University (BA, summa cum laude), Columbia University in New York (MFA), and University of Missouri-Columbia (PhD), as well as a Certificate in Voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is involved in varied collaborations and recently designed an opera narrative and wrote the libretto for a choral opera, Cassandra in the Temples, for Guggenheim-winning composer Elena Ruehr (premiered at MIT in November 2014 by the Grammy-winning NY vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, and revived in a staged production in November 2015 by Cappella Clausura). Gretchen received an NEH summer grant to study in Greece to help support this project, and the libretto is forthcoming as a special feature in Western Humanities Review.
A fifth-generation Californian, Gretchen lives with her husband and their shepherd mutt in Washington D.C., where she is on the faculty at Georgetown University while continuing to teach summers in the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop. In 2016, she is the Hodson-JCB Fellow at Brown University, RI, and Washington College, MD.