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:   


Writing Workshop

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. Fifteen evening sessions. 3 credits

Inventive Writing Practicum

The Writer’s Foundry Practicum is a how-to, interdisciplinary class whose aim is to get people writing better. We’ll read essays by writers about writing, talk about writing, and, well, write. We’ll study texts in poetry, fiction, nonfiction and dramatic writing. We don’t desire to be prescriptive or judgmental; sometimes, though, it's also helpful to say: “This sentence needs fixing.” It's not a sin to write badly—that is, less effectively—when we're starting out. Everybody does—even established writers in their early drafts. Our Practicum course is premised on the fact that we are all writers, at different stages of development and expertise.

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. 2 credits.

Symposium Electives

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 or two members of the faculty to work closely as adviser(s) on a final two-part thesis project.

Creative Thesis

70-100 pages of prose, 50 pages of dramatic writing, 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.   

Critical Thesis

20 pages 
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 additional testament to a student’s range, flair and mastery of writing.

Spring 2018 Symposium Elective Course Descriptions

“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.