The following account is not an official description of the degree requirements, which can be found on The Graduate School’s website, but an outline of study. All students admitted to the MFA+MA program are, without exception, guaranteed full funding (stipend plus tuition) for three academic years and two summers. The coursework for the MFA+MA takes three years to complete. The Graduate School allows students five years in which to complete their degree, but we strongly encourage students to finish within three years.
MFA+MA students will take a total of six writing workshops over their first two years in the program. Two workshops are cohort-specific and four are genre-specific. To help students write, think, and form artistic community across genres, our cohort-specific workshops address elements of writing that are common to poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction; our genre-specific workshops focus on technique, stances, artistic goals, and literary contexts that are particular to each genre. Because we admit four students each year (admitting two genres each year on a rotating basis), some of the genre-specific workshops may, from time to time, combine genres and focus on elements of writing that are common to genres, including style, structure, and mode of discourse (lyric, narrative, research-based, etc.).
From the first year through the third, the MFA+MA course schedule is a sequencing of studies and workshops in preparation for writing the two main new works each student will create: the critical MA Capstone essay and the MFA thesis manuscript. The MFA+MA program requires six graduate-level seminars in English. In order to gain some expertise in the full range of English and American literature and culture, two of these courses must be focused on literature before 1800 and two must be focused on literature after 1800. One of these courses may be taken outside the English Department. In addition, students will learn to read and interpret literature from a writer’s perspective in three required seminars under the rubric of English 403: Writers’ Studies in Literature. Years one and two are spent primarily on creative writing workshops and literature courses (both those designed for scholarly study and those intended to help the writer establish a stance toward literature itself, past and present), and year three primarily on the MFA thesis.
In the first year, all students hold fellowships, providing funding for their studies. Throughout most of the second year, funding is provided to MFA+MA students in the form of Graduate Assistantships, through which students are assigned duties (usually as a teaching assistant) relevant to their work and training. All students will take English 571: Teaching Creative Writing in their first year to prepare to teach their own introductory creative writing courses in the second and sometimes third year of the program. Students may be assigned to a creative writing faculty member as an apprentice teacher. Students will be required to teach creative writing for a total of three quarters, a feature of our program which is unique to MFA and MA degree programs and will enhance their preparation for the job market in teaching.
During their two funded summers in the program, MFA-MA students will serve as part-time Editorial Assistants for the prestigious online literary journal TriQuarterly, gaining editorial experience that will help shape their own projects in the MFA+MA program and beyond, will enrich their sense of what is being written contemporaneously, and will give them working knowledge of producing an online literary journal/website.
As is common practice in graduate programs, at the end of the first year, the MFA+MA Policy Committee evaluates students’ performance to determine whether they will continue into the second year of the MFA+MA program, or leave the program. This decision is based on satisfactory performance in course work and demonstrated ability to develop significant artistic and critical/scholarly projects and carry them to completion.
All MFA+MA students will complete an article-length critical essay in the late spring of the second year. This essay will normally be an expanded version of an essay written for an English Department graduate seminar, revised in response to comments from, and, as appropriate, in consultation with, the seminar instructor.
At the end of the third year, students will complete their MFA Thesis: a full draft of a book-length manuscript. To facilitate the time needed to complete this manuscript, students enroll in three quarters of English 591: MFA Thesis Tutorial. A formal reading for all graduating students will be held at the end of the third year.Back to top