Program of Study

The Program in Creative Writing, part of the Lewis Center for the Arts, allows undergraduates to work with practicing writers while pursuing a regular liberal arts course of study. Students develop their writing skills; learn the possibilities of modern poetry, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting and translation; and gain a special access to the critical understanding of literature through their involvement in the creative process.

Small workshop courses in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, and translation are taught by the program faculty, members of the Department of English, and visiting writers. These courses are limited in enrollment to ensure the benefits of working closely with faculty. Students begin the creative writing course sequence in either the fall or spring with 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 348, or 451. (Any of these may be repeated for credit with a different instructor.) Students who have taken two 200-level courses in poetry, fiction and translation may apply for the 300 level. All creative writing courses require an application process. Screenwriting students may apply to advanced screenwriting classes after one introductory screenwriting class.

Each workshop focuses on one genre only (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, or translation). Workshops meet for up to three hours weekly and are devoted primarily to discussion of student work.

All creative writing program courses are graded pass/D/fail but are not counted in the pass/D/fail budget.

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Certificate

Students may earn a certificate in creative writing by successfully completing the following requirements:

(1) Candidates for the certificate normally take two 200-level courses in creative writing by the end of sophomore year and two 300-level courses by the end of junior year, though a portion of this requirement may be waived in unusual circumstances. The courses need not be in a single genre; students are encouraged to experiment with kinds of writing new to them. Applicants for a screenwriting thesis must have taken one course in poetry, fiction, or translation; and at least two courses in screenwriting; it is strongly recommended that Advanced Screenwriting: Writing the Feature (349) be among them.

(2) Students may earn a certificate in creative writing by writing a creative senior thesis in one genre (e.g., collections of poems, stories, one feature or several short fim screenplays, a novel, or literary translations in poetry or fiction) under the direction of program faculty.

During the spring term of junior year, candidates for the certificate apply to the Program in Creative Writing for permission to write a creative thesis. The application consists of a short form and an extensive portfolio of work in the relevant genre. Successful applicants are assigned specific deadlines and an adviser they meet with throughout senior year.

Accepted students seek permission from their home departments to use the creative thesis to satisfy departmental thesis requirements. For students in the Department of English creative writing track and Comparative Literature Program D, approval is routine, and several other departments have welcomed creative theses, but some students undertake the creative thesis as a “second thesis.” Unlike creative writing workshops, which are pass/D/fail, theses receive letter grades.

The Creative Thesis

Accepted students seek permission from their home departments to use the creative thesis to satisfy departmental thesis requirements. For students in the Department of English Creative Writing Track and the Comparative Literature Department’s Program D, approval is routine, and several other departments have welcomed creative theses. Still, some students undertake the creative thesis as a “second thesis.”

Students are expected to begin their theses over the summer before the senior year, and those who have not made satisfactory progress by mid October are returned to their major department to write a regular thesis.

English majors accepted for a creative thesis may count a maximum of two creative writing courses at the 300 or 400 level toward their eight English departmentals, and their theses are supervised and graded by Program faculty. (English majors not accepted for a creative thesis may still count one 300 or 400 level creative writing course as their Program I cognate.) Otherwise, their requirements–distribution, senior comprehensives, etc.–are identical to those of regular English majors. Thesis students may not take other creative writing courses during their senior year.

Majors in departments other than English should, after successful application to the Program, secure the written permission of the Departmental Representative of their major department to undertake the creative thesis. Such students will usually be assigned advisors in both the Program and the major department. These advisors will negotiate the grading procedure. The department may have special requirements—for example, a critical preface or an extensive bibliography. The thesis will receive a “review” and a letter grade from a faculty reader, in consultation with the thesis advisor.

There is no set length for the thesis. Fiction theses have ranged from 80 to 400+ pages, 100-200 pages being typical. A poetry thesis normally contains 20-40 poems, depending on their length. In general no more than 20% of the thesis should be revised work from previous years. The thesis deadline is established by the Program in Creative Writing, typically sometime in the first week of April.