University General Course Catalog 2022-2023 
    Jun 19, 2024  

English (Creative Writing Specialization), M.F.A

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The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree is a professional degree that establishes emphases, in its curriculum, on both students’ writing and graduate-level scholarship in English. The degree offers a three-year course of study, incorporating coursework in literary history, critical theory, and literary craft, as well as requiring a core series of rigorous workshops centered on the development of the students’ creative work. Students  will have the opportunity not only to develop a significant body of publishable creative work, but will also be able to do so with an understanding of, and the ability to communicate effectively, the work’s historical/literary context.

The MFA will initially offer courses of study in the major specializations of fiction and poetry. The program in particular welcomes fiction writers wishing to work with high quality genre fiction (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc.), as well as those wishing to focus on contemporary literary fiction. Students are required to take at least one course in a specialization other than that of their primary course of study. In addition to classes taught by creative writing faculty, students are required to take credits in courses already offered by English department faculty in all emphases, as well as from interdepartmental elective courses chosen to fit students’ individual interests.

Contact Information

Catherine Chaput, Graduate Program Director
Frandsen Hall 209
(775) 682-6360

Graduate Handbook *

Program Objectives/Student Learning Outcomes

The MFA provides top-level training and experience to writers of promise, in order to best prepare them to be publishing creative writers and /or to pursue careers in college-level teaching. In addition, the program allows apprentice writers to develop their gifts amidst a community of artiest in a university setting; the program also provides a link between student writers and the wider professional community of published writers, editors, and agents. Students produce bodies of original work, based on an understanding and study of historic, contemporary, and avant-garde literatures, culminating in a book-length thesis. Students are expected no only to produce creative work, but to develop traditional scholarly and pedagogical skills, so as to better articulate their knowledge—to a potential audience including readers, colleagues, and students—as befits the recipient of a terminal degree in English.

By the end of their degree program, MFA candidates should be able to:

  • Demonstrate mastery of manipulation of elements of craft/technique within their chosen area of emphasis. (in fiction, this is defined as: form (the novel, novella, and short story); generic tropes; narrative structure; point of view; tone; and voice. In poetry, this is defined as: traditional forms; line/enjambment; imagery and metaphor; meter; rhyme and free verse);
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the contemporary publishing landscape for fiction (both genre and literary) and/or poetry, for book-length works as well as for individual stories/poems;
  • Demonstrate the ability to curate/edit the creative work of others for publication;
  • Create a book-length of work of publishable creative writing, as well as identify its audience/market;
  • Analyze and describe their creative work within the context of historical trends/movements and genres in literature;
  • Compile a professional portfolio demonstrating an understanding of future career options and approaches to same.

Admission Requirements

Candidates will be accepted for fall semester admission only, and must submit applications by the Department of English’s January 15 deadline.

Applicants are required to submit, for Department of English graduate Committee approval:

  1. a creative writing sample of 30 pages in fiction or 10 pages in length of poetry, demonstrating the students strongest work in the genre of application;
  2. a scholarly writing sample of ca/ 15 pages in length, demonstrating readiness for graduate study in English;
  3. a 2-3 page statement of intent, including declaration of genre of study
  4. official transcripts;
  5. three letters of recommendation.

I. Program Requirements

All MFA candidates must enroll in a minimum of 6 units per semester during their first five semesters in the program and at minimum must maintain graduate standing thereafter. In the sixth semester, they must finalize/finish a thesis project. Candidates must maintain a minimum 3.5 grade-point average. During the second year of study, candidates must choose one Department of English creative writing faculty member to serve as the MFA committee chair and advisor; two additional department faculty (one from creative writing, and one outside the student’s declared course of study) to serve as a committee members; and a fourth committee member from outside the Department of English, chosen in consultation with the committee chair. During the student’s third year of study the MFA program requires the candidate to take a comprehensive written examination, on topics of the committee chair’s choosing, over the candidate’s knowledge of a 30-book reading list and annotated bibliography; this will be followed closely thereupon by an oral examination, conducted by the student’s full committee, during which the student will defend written exam answers and the annotated bibliography. At the end of the third year of study, students will complete and present to the full committee a written book-length thesis or original fiction/poetry, of publishable quality. At the conclusion of 48 credit hours, the student will be required to pass a defense of the completed thesis before the full committee.

Students on assistantship may also be required to take ENG 737  and ENG 793 , which may be counted as one of the student’s elective courses.

A. Introduction to Graduate Study (3 Units)

B. Poetry/Fiction Workshop (12 OR 15 Units)

  • Fiction specialists must take 12 units of ENG 705;
  • Poetry specialists must take 12 units of ENG 709.

With permission of their thesis chair, a student may substitute an additional workshop (either class) for 3 units of ENG 797.

D. Comprehensive Examination (1 unit)

E. Thesis (14 or 17 units)

17 units required, unless student (with permission of thesis chair) substitutes 3 units of 797 for 3 units of an additional workshop (either ENG 705 or ENG 709).

F. Electives (15 units)

II. Total Units (48 units)

The degree requires 48 credit hours (three years of study).

Undergraduate Prerequisites

Applicants must present a Bachelor’s degree or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a minimum of 3.0 grade-point average from an accredited university, school, or college. Applicants need not have received their previous degree in English.

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