Master of Fine Arts

Curriculum Description

The MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics program consists of a first year residency program and a second year non-residency or partial residency program as elected by the student. Students are admitted into the program each Autumn (beginning 2012) as a cohort of 18 students. In the first year residency program, students’ entire workload is made up of one creative writing workshop and one poetics seminar per quarter (for a total of 30 credits).  Creative writing workshops focus on the student's own writing, and poetics seminars require critical reflection on diverse aspects of writing.

In the second year residency/non-residency program, all students are expected to write a creative thesis and extend their critical studies. Students can pursue, if they wish, a non-residency option, earning in their second year 15 credits of creative writing thesis and 15 credits of directed study or research. Alternatively, students can take 15 credits of elective courses.  In all cases, students must complete a total of 60 credits. In the eventuality that individual exigencies make it impossible for students to complete their first year of 30 credits of creative writing workshops and poetics seminars in the order prescribed, they would need to make up their missed courses in the following year.

Core Courses

The following core courses have been developed as the curricular foundation of the program. Students moving through the program are required to take all of these courses in sequence. Electives and directed research opportunities provide ways of customizing one's course of study.

Year One

Autumn Quarter

BCREA 5XX Creative Writing Workshop: Between Prose and Poetry will focus on prose and poetry as well as on cross genre written forms which mediate between them. The workshop will emphasize how poets and prose writers establish a creative relationship to language, so that language itself is responsive, telling, inspired, multivalent, direct, and subtle. Students will be asked to write in narrative and non-narrative forms.  Some translation and / or editing assignments may be included.

BCREA 5XX Poetics Seminar: Cultural Change and Writing will serve as an introduction to the larger area of poetics, focusing on cultural change and writing. We will read diverse writers and theorists who address issues of shifting global and transnational political realities; changing gender, race, ethnicity, and class issues; and transforming media. We will consider relations between aesthetics and politics, focusing on contemporary writing that registers important aspects of a changing society and culture, and that has the capacity to move audiences—emotionally and / or to action. We will attend to dynamics between self and other and between subjectivity and representation and to language as a set of conventional meanings as well as a limitless resource.

Winter Quarter

BCREA 5XX Creative Writing Workshop: Between Fact and Imagination addresses how writers utilize research in their writing and asks students to create creative works by engaging different kinds of research. It considers how documentary forms have served as a basis for many artistic and written projects in the twentieth century with writers sometimes blurring the line between their “factual” sources and imaginative responses and other times heightening the gap between them.  Relationships and antipathies between fact and imagination; and between fiction, non-fiction, and poetry will be explored.

BCREA 5XX Poetics Seminar: The Practice of Ethnography considers the usefulness of ethnographic methods in performing research.  The course will attend to the difficult and complex questions of interviewing and representing “others,” particularly when these “others” are often stereotyped within the larger society. It will inquire into the relationship between creative writing and creative ethnographies in diverse disciplines, including literature, sociology, anthropology, and ethnopoetics.

Spring Quarter

BCREA 5XX Creative Writing Workshop: Thinking and Memory foregrounds how writers engage these primary cognitive processes in order to compose their work and how these processes are affected by diverse disciplinary, media, and genre applications.

BCREA 5XX Poetics Seminar: The Medium of the Message takes up the important subject of technological change. Beginning with Plato’s critique of the written word as prone to destroy memory itself, this course will consider the implications of our own revolutionary technological era for writing. In addition to focusing on new media, subjects may include relationships between oral and written forms of communication; performative and written modes; text, image, and sound; and the book as a transforming, endangered species.

Year Two

All students will write a creative writing thesis (15 credits) supervised by a Thesis Advisor and read by a Second Reader. Students will defend their theses through the protocols set forth by the UW Graduate School. In addition, they must complete 15 additional credits (for a total of 30 credits) via one of the following options:

OPTION ONE – Residency Option. 15 credits of creative writing thesis and 15 credits of additional course work.

OPTION TWO – Non-Residency Option. 15 credits of creative writing thesis and 15 credits of directed study or research.

In advance of their second year, students are asked to create a plan of study to be approved by their Thesis Advisor and the MFA Faculty Coordinator. In addition to their 15 credits of thesis, students must designate a course of study that provides with expertise in one or more areas. Courses can be taken in diverse subjects: education, environmental studies, science and technology, literature, interdisciplinary arts, media studies, cultural studies, policy studies, gender studies and sexuality studies, computer software, education, global studies, and human rights. For students who wish to pursue a career in teaching, courses in education and teaching are strongly recommended.  In the Spring Quarter of their first year, students must prioritize their requests for a Thesis Advisor and Second Reader, and fill out a form providing a rationale for a set of elective or directed study courses. The MFA Faculty Coordinator in discussion with the MFA Curricular Area Working Group (CAWG), made up of core MFA faculty, make considered assignments that address students’ requests.

In advance of the beginning of a non-residency option, students must have their entire course of study approved and signed for by their Thesis Advisor and MFA Faculty Coordinator. A set of standard expectations (with respect to quantity and quality) are established for the 15 credits of thesis and 15 credits of directed study or research for all students.

BCREA 5XX Directed Study (5-15 credits)
BCREA 5XX Directed Research (5-15 credits)
BCREA 5XX Creative Writing Thesis (15 credits)
BCREA 5XX Creative Writing in Multiple Educational Settings (5-10 credits)
Multiple additional Graduate Courses (in areas listed above) (5-15 credits)



About the MFA

“Expanding ideas of culture and knowledge require that students understand and create art that reflects the complexity, multiple meanings, and interdisciplinary nature of real life.”