The Writer's Foundry recognizes that most students who enroll in a master of fine arts program in creative writing seek to become published writers. We also presuppose our students to become vital members of a writing community, to distinguish themselves as literary citizens engaged in the concerns of the world, and to graduate practiced and fluent in critical thinking.
We place emphasis on particularly well-developed skills to identify modes of rhetoric, and the patterns of introspection and analysis where they join poetic expression - writing to master both the abstract and the concrete (and their subsequent exchange). We believe good writing relates to judicious discernment, not just on the page but also in daily life.
To that end, we offer the following curriculum:
In this class writers bring new and ongoing literary projects, long and short, for presentation to their peers, each to be closely examined in the form of written comments from fellow students and discussion guided by a core faculty member. The texts for this course are based primarily upon the writing that the class itself generates, but can be frequently supplemented by additional readings and lessons via handout. Fifteen evening sessions. 4 credits.
Inventive Writing Practicum
The pedagogical core of the St. Joseph’s Writer’s Foundry education, this course studies and practices the forms and modes of rhetoric upon which all literature depends. Writers work with their instructor to publicly apply the five essential skills that every writer can practice: writing prolifically - at will and on command; identifying, selecting and writing from whole structures; making observations based on close reading of text and separating them from inferences and opinion; writing both abstractly and concretely, rewriting not as correction but as discovery.
There are two parts to this approach to writing - the prolific and the structured - and the class will demonstrate through practice how both emerge through each other. In addition, each week the class introduces and reviews specific craft topics including: rhythm, tenses, person, tone, meter and other prosodic devices, rhetorical forms, symbol, metaphor, physical description, dramatic dialogue, narrative, humor, motive, aim, province, archetype and how to engage them all in rewriting and revision.
Readings and discussions are focused to provide companionable reference to other parts of the program. Fifteen evening sessions. 3 credits.
The Master Literature Lectures
Each semester, several distinguished authors visit the program to deliver master lectures on a notable work of writing from the classical or contemporary canon. Each visiting lecturer is asked to speak, one writer to another, on literary concerns of the featured book, and also to answer questions that their presentations raise. Several evening sessions. 1 credit.
Each semester there are numerous readings, as well as single and double session mini-classes focused on specific genres or recently published works. The program displays its commitment to broadening perspectives with topics that include: poetry for prose writers, editing from literary magazines, critical writing and book reviews, scholarly writing and research, texts that break form, graphic novels, literary agents and visiting writers reading from newly published work. Students are required to sign up and attend a minimum of four sessions. 1 credit.
Following the successful completion of three semesters of coursework with a total of 27 credits earned, students continue to attend the Master Literature Lectures, but in advancing to the fourth and final semester they will have selected one member of the faculty to work closely as adviser on a final two-part thesis project. With scheduled conferences and calendar deadlines determined by each student and adviser, the student works to realize the literary attestation necessary for graduation. Suggested readings and relevant discussions are tailored to fit the thesis project of each student, which consists of a 70-page creative thesis and a 20-page critical thesis.
A carefully considered and artfully rendered manuscript - revised, copy-edited and proofread - comprised of stories, a novella, substantial excerpts of longer fictive prose or essays of fact, witness, reportage, travel writing, memoir or other narrative forms, and which in some projects might also include poetic verse and form. The manuscript may consist of one uninterrupted work, selections from a longer work or individual and separate short pieces.
Ideally the critical paper focuses on authors or aspects of literature that connect to the thesis writer’s creative work. The critical paper might be academic in tone, but it might also take the form of a series of interviews, profiles, book reviews or a literary essay, all suitable for publication. An emphasis should be placed on research, not just secondary sources, but also primary and original explorations, and on sifting evidence to find original points of view. The critical paper should be viewed as additional testament to a student’s range, flair and mastery of writing.
Upon reaching fruition, each project is assigned a final grade by the adviser and is then submitted to the department for final approval. Two neatly bound copies of the approved thesis is required to be delivered to the writing program prior to graduation.