January 30, 2017

Creative Writing Major Comes to the College

In response to high student demand, a creative writing major will be offered for the first time beginning in fall quarter 2017. 

The new major will require 13 courses, including advanced level workshops focusing on the production of creative writing and lecture classes that analyze existing works of nonfiction, fiction and poetry, according to Creative Writing Chair John Wilkinson.

The major will be “strenuous,” focusing on both the creation and theory of writing, Wilkinson said.

“Whilst it is devoted to improving the writing of the students, it is not simply a workshop course,” Wilkinson said. “The major is designed to enable students to locate their practice politically, socially and professionally.”

Wilkinson said the major is designed to be interdisciplinary and classes outside the major can fulfill credits. 

“If you’re writing a novel set in Papua New Guinea, then you could take a couple of courses in anthropology,” Wilkinson said.

The major will require a B.A. thesis during the student’s fourth year, with a winter thesis workshop and a graduate student preceptor. The entirety of the creative writing department will make a decision to confer honors on a minority of students based on overall academic performance and the quality of the final paper.

Through a survey which compared the proportional number of students enrolled in the University creative writing minor to peer institutions with creative writing major programs, the department estimates there will be 40 major candidates per year, Program Coordinator Jessica Haley said.

Haley also noted that a high proportion of students currently enrolled in the English honors option in the creative dissertation track may decide to pursue a double major instead. With the establishment of the creative writing major, the creative dissertation will be phased out over the next two years. 

“We anticipate there being a lot of double majors in creative writing and economics, based on how many economics students take our minor and take more than the required number of courses for that minor,” Haley said.

Second-year Tommy Zhang said he would consider double majoring in either economics or mathematics and creative writing if the number of credits were less of an issue for his academic schedule. Zhang is currently in his third creative writing workshop, and he intends to take a few more creative writing courses to complete the minor requirements.

“As someone who doesn’t love writing essays or analytical papers but loves math, poetry is good because it is a creative outlet with a lot of structure,” Zhang said.

Second-year Urvi Kumbhat, who is currently enrolled in Fundamentals of Poetry, said she may consider the creative writing major.

“It would be ideal if there was support from real poets and writers who are producing work on a regular basis, not just academics,” Kumbhat said. “I would want there to be a good balance between critical study and independent writing.”

According to Wilkinson, as the creative writing major program becomes more solidified, a graduate-level program may be developed.