This weekend marks the official opening of the Logan Arts Center, the centerpiece of the University’s efforts to enhance and expand the arts on campus. The building has been touted as a hub for arts activity and as a means to advance inquiry, study, and creativity. Last year also saw the creation of the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry and the Mellon Residential Fellowship Program, which have already brought several distinguished artists to campus, among them Alison Bechdel, Tony Kushner, and Daniel Tucker. Though the University has shown its commitment to the arts in its recent events programming, some parts of the College’s curricula still lag behind. Creative writing classes, in particular, could greatly benefit from the attention the University has shown other aspects of the campus’s arts offerings.
Classes offered by the Committee on Creative Writing are among the most difficult to get into, with only a handful of classes offered each quarter and class sizes often capped at 12 people. Beginning level classes fill up quickly, with waitlists often reaching into the double digits. While it’s understandable that offering more classes for fewer people would be cost-prohibitive, there is a far higher student demand than can be met by the current offerings.
In addition to offering more classes, the Committee on Creative Writing would do well to expand its faculty. Though the Committee counts 16 graduate students and professors among its faculty, few of them teach creative writing exclusively, often also teaching classes in the English department. The class selection also tends to focus more on fiction and poetry writing, which account for nine of the 16 classes offered this quarter. In contrast, there is only one journalism course offered, and only two creative nonfiction classes, both of them at the beginning level. Expanding the faculty would allow more classes to be offered and ensure that other disciplines receive more attention.
Furthermore, the University should consider offering a creative writing major, and more creative writing classes should count toward the Core arts requirement. Though it is possible to minor in English and Creative Writing, a creative writing major does not exist, and only certain creative writing classes count either toward an English degree or for the arts requirement. For example, it’s unclear why a class such as Intro to Genres: Wizards fulfills an arts requirement, while a beginning fiction-writing course does not. Most creative writing courses, rather than an arbitrary selection of them, should count toward the arts requirement. If not, there should be an explanation of the rationale behind the University’s criteria for granting arts requirement credit.
With the opening of the Logan Center, student groups and the arts have gained new performance spaces, more visibility, and far more events on campus than ever before. As part of the official launch of the Logan Center this weekend, four students writing creative projects for their BA’s will read from their work in commemoration of the event. If more are to follow in their footsteps, it’s necessary that the University emphasize the arts within the classroom as much as outside it.
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