Creative Writing M.F.A. Curriculum
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.
To that end, we offer the following curriculum:
Each class is small in size and allows for generous individual attention. Students turn in new and ongoing literary projects, both long and short, to be closely examined in the form of written comments and discussion led by core faculty. We value a supportive writing environment and hold our work to the highest literary standards.
This is a how-to, interdisciplinary course aimed at understanding, appreciating and putting into practice the craft of writing. We’ll study texts in poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and learn to read like writers. Assignments are often supplemented with creative prompts and exercises.
Here we display our commitment to broadening perspectives with mini-classes that include Prolific Writing, Songwriting, Small Press Publishing, Book Reviewing, Q&A with Literary Agents, Screenwriting and more.
Each semester, distinguished authors visit the Writer’s Foundry to deliver master lectures on notable works of writing. Each visiting lecturer is asked to speak, one writer to another, on literary concerns of the featured book.
We’re honored to have hosted master lecturers Amy Hempel, Francine Prose, Randall Horton, Leah Nanako Winkler, Gregory Pardlo, Paul La Farge, Sa ya Sinclair, William Wall, Rebecca Wolff, Chloe Honum, Mitchell S. Jackson, Wyatt Mason, An Duplan, Major Jackson, Deborah Eisenberg, Ocean Vuong and Mary Gaitskill.
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 or two members of the faculty to work closely as adviser(s) on a final two-part thesis project.
70-100 pages of prose or 35 pages of poetry
A carefully considered and artfully rendered manuscript — revised, copy-edited and proofread — comprised of stories, poetry, a novella, a play, substantial excerpts of longer fictive prose or essays of fact, witness, reportage, travel writing, memoir or other narrative forms. The manuscript may consist of one uninterrupted work, selections from a longer work or individual and separate short pieces.
The critical thesis is a short, publishable manuscript. It might focus on authors or aspects of literature that connect to the thesis writer’s creative work. The critical thesis might be academic in tone, or it might take the form of a series of interviews, profiles, book reviews, poems or a literary essay, all suitable for publication. An emphasis may 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 thesis should be viewed as an additional testament to a student’s range, flair and mastery of writing.
Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 Symposium Electives
- "Prolific Writing" with Kate Meehan
- "Songwriting Symposium" with Syd Straw
- "The Writer at Work" with Andrew Martin
- "The Job Market" with Randall Horton
- "Screenwriting" with Lexy Benhaim
- "Q&A" with Literary Agents and Editors
Sample Spring 2018 symposia
“On Poetic Closure”
with Nathan McClain
Wednesdays, 6:05-7:05 p.m.
Jan. 24 – May 2
In this symposium, we will first consider the rudimentary questions of what exactly is closure in a poem, what do we expect from it, and what does it offer us? We will also consider how a poem's structure contributes to and prepares a reader for its close and how counterbalance functions within a poem. We will close-read poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Larry Levis, Rainer Maria Rilke, Vievee Francis, Carl Phillips, and many more in our search of closure and where it ultimately leads us.
“The Journey from Research to Narrative”
with Joel Whitney
Four Mondays, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 , Feb. 5, Mar. 5 and Mar. 19
Research is reading with a purpose. And while reading another writer's creative work can inform your style and other aesthetic choices, research is a way to fill your writing with critical information. Effective research can make your narrative vivid with details and it can even drive the narrative itself. What do you know about a figure from history, even your own family history, until you've heard how she phrased her most crucial questions in letters to her contemporaries? In this seminar, we'll discuss the best research practices, from archives to interviews, and look at what these hunts for evidence can do for your essay, memoir, or cultural history. Many of the research techniques will apply to fiction, poetry and theater as well.
The Poetry of Landscape
with Grace Bonner and Cathryn Dwyre
Four Mondays, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
April 2, 9, 16, 23
This course explores the relationship between human-designed landscapes and structured literary forms. Both are creations intended to change the way we think and feel. If nature is wilderness, so are words in language: Coleridge said that poetry is “the best words in the best order.” Poems and stories are gardens and cities of the writer’s own invention.
Classes in this four-part symposium will feature lectures and detailed slide presentations by landscape architect Cathryn Dwyre. We’ll discuss literary form in poets’ renderings of various landscapes; they may include classic literature (the Greek and Roman pastoral; Ovid's Metamorphoses; Virgil), Shakespeare, Milton, Robert Burns, Thomas Gray, Wordsworth, Blake, Keats, Robert Frost, W.S. Merwin, Stanley Kunitz and Louise Gluck.
“Gardens should be integrated seamlessly into everything; there is a reason being banished from a garden was the most terrible fate God could think to inflict on humankind.” Brianna Rennix and Nathan J. Robinson, “Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture” (Current Affairs magazine, October 2017)
Anecdote of the Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.