Master of Fine Arts in Fiction and Poetry

Signature Seminars

In addition to graduate workshops in poetry and fiction, our MFA in Creative Writing offers a diverse range of practices and approaches to exploration, generation, collaboration and the installation of prose and poetry on and off the page. Below are a few of our graduate faculty signature seminars.

The Endangered Child in Literary Fiction with Chantel Acevedo

 It took a long time for children to take center stage in novels written for adults. The ancient Greeks relegated poor Telemachus to a subplot, and killed off Iphigenia the first chance they got. The Victorians seized upon the idea of children as leads--Charles

Dickens in England and Henry James in the U.S. made a career out of writing about children for adult audiences. Today, the popularity of YA fiction is testament to the usefulness of plumbing the experiences of childhood and adolescence for stories.

 But, as writers hoping to write realistic, literary fiction, the child-centered novel for adults presents particular problems. How does a child or adolescent protagonist hook a literary reader? What elevates the story above fairy-tale, or worse, an exercise in nostalgia? The first step is to consider the great tradition of the dangerous childhood, one that Dickens was quick to understand and employ. While the imperative to "raise the stakes" is something writers hear often in edits of their work, the importance of building patterns of risk and growing suspense is particularly important in novels with children or adolescents at their center. So, we will look closely at novels written for adults that follow in that tradition of dangerous childhoods and adolescence. These child protagonists are living very dangerous childhoods, and we'll discuss the ways in which that set-up can make for a rich, literary, and adult story. We'll also be reading as writers, and thinking about how the techniques of craft are best tailored to this kind of story.

Close Companions with A. Manette Ansay

Close Companions will focus on pairings of novels inspired by other novels. We’ll consider the implications of these self-sought, self-wrought relationships in practical terms, isolating techniques we can assimilate into our own creative processes. Discussions will be craft-based and pragmatically-oriented, addressing issues arising from the on-going challenges we face as writers in general and novelists in particular. Our goal will be an evolving analysis of the differences between imitation and invention, and the ways in which we, ourselves, might look to mentoring books for inspiration, honoring an existing structural template while retaining voices and visions we can unapologetically call our own.

Poetry Wars with Jaswinder Bolina

In the period immediately following World War II, anthologists and critics began organizing American avant-garde poetry into a number of “schools,” including the Confessional poets, the New York School, the Beats and San Francisco Renaissance, Black Mountain, and (in the 1970s) L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. Contemporary poets regularly find themselves pitted against each other—often with surprising animosity—in two primary factions that are the result of the divisions of that period. Poet-critic Tony Hoagland describes these factions as defined by “the poetry of perspective” versus “the poetry of derangement.” In this course, we’ll read an extensive selection of poems and statements of poetics from each of these midcentury movements. In order to fully understand what distinguishes these groups from each other and what their work has in common, students will write original poems emulating each of the styles we study as well as critical papers that interrogate the poetics underlying each. Additionally, we’ll be reading critical essays by Martin Heidegger, Lyn Hejinian, and Tony Hoagland to supplement our reading of poetry. Finally, we’ll read work by contemporary poets to understand how the diversity and divisions of midcentury writing affect the poetry we write today.

The Shape and Substance of Books with M. Evelina Galang 

This course focuses on how structure reflects and deepens content, often pushing story and theme forward. Similarly, the course examines how substance shapes the body of the book, gives direction and order to chapters and stories. Students also consider their own writing, exploring how thematic obsessions determine the structure and define the order in their books. This is a valuable exploration for students in the final stages of their long projects.

Literary Collage and Collaboration with Maureen Seaton 

As creative tools, literary collage and collaboration encourage an expansive ideology, a vigorous consciousness of disparate cultures on one soil. They're also disarmingly fun, even seditious, making them poetically invaluable. I incorporate the techniques into all my undergraduate and graduate workshops. My signature grad course explores these impulses in depth.