MFA Courses

ENGLISH 520. 2 hrs.  Craft and Theory of FictionIn this course, various issues of craft and theory in fiction are presented by the fiction faculty, in a format which ranges from lectures to seminars. This course provides an analysis of professional and student work, focusing on a particular issue of craft or theory, including the construction of time-lines, the use of sensory detail, characterization, and narrative structure. May be repeated for a total of 8 hours credit.

 

ENGLISH 540. 2 hrs.  Craft and Theory of Poetry.  In this course, various issues of craft and theory in poetry are presented by the poetry faculty, in a format which ranges from lecture to short-term seminars.  The course provides an analysis of professional and student work, focusing on a particular issue of craft or theory, including traditional verse forms, the use of vernacular speech in poetry, the long poem, the role of place and region in poetry, and the structure of free verse. May be repeated for a total of 8 hours credit.

 

ENGLISH 530. 2 hrs.  Craft and Theory of Creative Non-Fiction.  In this course, various issues of craft and theory in creative non-fiction are presented by the non-fiction faculty in a format which ranges from lectures to seminars. The course provides an analysis of professional and student work, focusing on a particular issue of craft or theory, including the role of memory, structure, characterization, point of view, and detailed description.  May be repeated for a total of 8 hours credit.

 

ENGLISH 545. 2 hrs.  Poetry Workshop. This workshop focuses on student writing in the poetic form, which is read and evaluated by the entire class.  Students expand their writing and critical skills, and strengthen their knowledge of literary standards. May be repeated for a total of 8 hours credit.

 

ENGLISH 525. 2 hrs. Fiction Workshop.  This course focuses on student fiction writing, which is read and evaluated by the entire class.  Students expand their writing and critical skills, and strengthen their knowledge of literary standards. May be repeated for a total of 8 hours credit.

 

ENGLISH 535. 2 hrs. Creative Non-Fiction Workshop. This course focuses on student writing in memoir, autobiography, creative essay, and nature writing.  The work is read and evaluated by the entire class.  Students expand their writing and critical skills, and strengthen their knowledge of literary standards. May be repeated for a total of 8 hours credit.

 

ENGLISH 570. 8 hrs. Semester Project in Fiction, Poetry, or Creative Non-Fiction.  Students plan their semester projects with their faculty advisor. The project entails twenty-five hours per week of work on the packets of writing exchanged with the advisor. A booklist of 20-25 books relevant to the craft and theory of the chosen genre will be assembled and documented in an annotated bibliography, five packets of writing will be exchanged throughout the semester, and a final portfolio will be submitted at the semester’s end. The faculty advisor may refer the student to other readings in addition to those on the agreed-upon reading list. May be repeated for a total of 24 hours credit.

 

ENGLISH 650. 8 hrs. Thesis Preparation and Defense. The student will complete the Creative Thesis of publishable quality under the supervision of the faculty advisor. For prose writers, both fiction and non-fiction, the manuscript should be 100 pages or more; for poetry writers, the manuscript should be 50 pages or more. The student will return for a Fifth Residency for at least 3 three days in which a reading will be given from the completed manuscript and a seminar will be taught to peers.

 

Sample Residency Seminar Descriptions

LAND LIGHT, SEA LIGHT, HUMAN DWELLINGS. Devon McNamara. 2-day seminar. What did you grow up looking at and where? Did you live at sea level? In the mountains? Small Midwestern town? The indoor outdoors of a great city? How does exploring where your imagery comes from unlock the visual power of concentrated memory to reveal where your poem is going, to charge its rhythms, intensify its shape in the mind's eye and heart? Together we'll study and discuss the role of the image in poetry, focusing on the ways its energies can derive from landscape, waterscape, cities, roads and towns, where remembrance, longing, insight, and our infinite feelings and intelligences reside. Handouts of poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Gerald Stern, Eavan Boland, Seamus Heaney, Philip Levine, and others will be supplied during the session. Required Reading: Jane Hirschfield. Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. HarperCollins, 1997.

 

THE HILLBILLY SPEAKS OF RIVERS. Doug Van Gundy. 1-day seminar. The Appalachian Poetry of James Wright. James Wright is regarded as one of the seminal voices of 20th century poetry. While much is written in the critical literature of his portrayal of the industrial Midwest, his affinity for marginalized figures and his complex relationships with other poets (Roethke, Bly and his own son Franz), very little has been mentioned regarding the Appalachian nature of his work. Wright grew up along the Ohio River in the Appalachian counties of Ohio and by his own account, his family background "goes very deep and far back into West Virginia and Ohio." Participants in this one day seminar will compare Wright's work with that of other "Appalachian" poets and explore the themes of poverty, history, heritage, location and self-reliance in James Wright's poems.

 

ASPECTS OF 3RD PERSON POINT-OF-VIEW. Richard Schmitt. 2-day seminar. This class will examine two different aspects of 3rd person point-of-view. First, we will examine how time elements, the handling of how time passes, affects the point-of-view in "Lunch in winter" by William Trevor and "Hey Sailor, What Ship?" by Tillie Olsen. We will also look at the endings of "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor and "Gusev' by Anton Chekov to see how those endings made necessary certain point-of-view choices. All four stories must be read before class.

 

AGAINST SENTIMENTALITY: PATHOS AND EMOTION IN NARRATIVE VOICE. Eric Waggoner. 2-day seminar. This seminar focuses on the use and deployment of pathos, or the appeal to emotion, in narrative voice (prose and poetry). In the popular mind, we often think of "sentimentality" as the overabundance of emotion in writing. However, we might more accurately begin a discussion of sentimentality by defining it as the attempt to reduce what would realistically be a complex set of emotional responses to a single emotional response - a common problem for young writers, though one that haunts all writing. This seminar begins with the assumption that, defined in this way, "sentimental" writing oversimplifies, and in fact obscures, the complexities of the human experience as represented in literature, by attempting to force the reader's response and engagement along a single emotive trajectory. In doing so, sentimental writing actually prevents the representation of the complex realities of human experience, resulting in writing that is not simply bad art, but in fact anti-art. This seminar will provide opportunities to discuss "bad art" critically, with an eye towards refining the writer's ability to recognize and guard against such oversimplifying tendencies in his/her own writing.

 

FORMS OF THE ESSAY: THE PORTRAIT. Jessie van Eerden. 1-day seminar. An exploration of strategies and ethical/philosophical concerns for writing about others' lives in creative nonfiction. We'll also take a look at the nature of the writer's self-portraiture in her essays that profile others. Required Advanced Reading: a short theory piece by art critic John Berger and sample portrait essays provided as PDF's.

 

ALLUSION, DELUSION, ILLUSTRATION, TONGUE IN CHEEK AND WORKING CHOICES - STYLE, PARODY, TONE, SATIRE. Mark DeFoe. 1-day seminar. A wide-ranging overview of the elements of style, with attention to tone, mood, diction, sentence structure, audience, and narrative point of view. The class will consider examples from fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Students will be asked to investigate their own stylistic choices in their writing.