The Master of Fine Arts degree in
Creative Writing is awarded for successful completion of a 36-credit
course of study in one of several concentrations: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, or Writing for Children.
This is a full-time program designed to be completed in two years (four semesters). Due to the integral nature of the curriculum, transfer credits are not accepted.
In each of the first three semesters, you take one writing workshop and one literature seminar. Workshops are always
in your concentration, but you can take a literature seminar in another field. In your final semester in residence, you work closely with a
faculty advisor in independent study leading to the completion of both a
Writing Thesis (a substantial work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or
writing for children) and a Literature Project in your concentration.
In all four semesters in residence, you take
the Writer's Life Colloquium (1 credit). The credit is earned by
participating in a minimum of eight approved School of Writing events
at The New School. These include craft-based literary forums (Fiction
Forum, Poetry Forum, etc.), special readings, publishing roundtables,
and visiting writer residencies.
The program provides students with a framework and sustained blocks of time to work extensively on their own writing. Guided by an experienced writer-teacher, students focus on their manuscripts, both in the workshop and in individual conferences with the instructor. The emphasis is on the creative acts of self-editing and revision. Workshops meet once a week in a two-hour session. Structure and content are adapted to the area of concentration:
FictionClass sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' fiction, usually short stories or excerpts from novels-in-progress. Students learn how to balance inspiration with revision; explore methods for strengthening characterization, storytelling, and style while developing their voices to the utmost; and explore narrative forms and techniques.
PoetryClass sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' poems. There is constant attention to the craft of modern poetry—skills and strategies, aspects of prosody and new directions in writing, and the discovery (and invention) of techniques appropriate for the poet's voice and subject matter. There is special emphasis on the process of revision.
NonfictionClass sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' nonfiction, usually in the form of personal reminiscences, reflective essays, reportage, and biography. Topics include the art of choosing a subject; developing a sense of structure; cultivating tone, style, and personal voice; and techniques of characterization, dialogue, imagery, and drama. Skills of interviewing and methods documentary research are described and discussed.
Writing for ChildrenClass sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' writings for children, which might include picture book texts, 8-12 fiction or nonfiction, and teenage fiction or nonfiction. There is equal emphasis on learning proven techniques and strategies of writing successful literature for children and developing one's own voice and finding forms appropriate for personal projects. The ability to express ideas in styles appropriate for children of different ages is key.
Traditional and contemporary literature is investigated from the specialized perspective of the active writer. Course offerings represent all the MFA concentrations, but vary each semester according to the interests of the faculty. All literature seminars concentrate on crucial aspects of craft as well as issues of literary history and theory. Seminars meet once a week in a two-hour session.
Graduate writing students at The New School participate in an ongoing colloquium of visiting writers, critics, writing teachers, editors, publishers, and literary agents. It reflects the wide range of cultural activity at The New School and the belief that students benefit from exposure to many voices and genres. Examples of regular events embraced by the Writer's Life Colloquium are the public readings co-sponsored with Cave Canem Foundation, The Story Prize,
National Book Foundation, National Book Critics Circle, Council of
Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), Villa Gillet, PEN, the Academy of American Poets, the National Book Awards, and the Poetry Society of America, and public readings and discussions devoted to each of the MFA concentrations. The Writer's Life Colloquium also involves special seminars, teaching lectures, publishers' symposia, and visiting writer residencies arranged exclusively for graduate writing students.
In the final semester in residence, each student works closely with a faculty member through structured conferences to produce a manuscript worthy of publication in the student's area of concentration. Each thesis is evaluated by the faculty advisor and submitted to the director of the MFA program for final approval. Thesis requirements for each concentration are as follows:
PoetryA manuscript of 40 to 60 pages consisting of individual poems, poetic sequences, or one long poem.
A manuscript of 70 to 100 pages consisting of short stories, a novella, or finished chapters of a novel-in-progress.
NonfictionA manuscript of 70 to 100 pages consisting of reflective essays, reportage, or finished chapters of a memoir, biography, or other nonfiction book-in-progress.
Writing for Children
A manuscript of 50 to 70 pages consisting of children' stories or nonfiction or finished chapters of a young adult novel or nonfiction book-in progress.
Also in the final semester in residence, students demonstrate their ability to reflect on literature as critics by working closely with a member of the faculty through structured conferences to create an essay of approximately 20 pages (or a series of essay-reviews) on a topic of the student's devising in his or her concentration. The Literature Project can complement a student's thesis by exploring how other writers have addressed corresponding challenges and problems of literary work, or it can stand alone as a critical study. Each Literature Project is evaluated by the faculty advisor and then submitted to the director of the Writing Program for final approval.
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