Creative Writing Major

We are excited to announce a new Major in Creative Writing, which is launching in Autumn 2017! Rising fourth-years will not be eligible for the major, but students in their third year or below will be able to declare the major starting in Spring 2017. Below you will find program details. FAQs can be found here.

Announcements about upcoming courses, etc. will be forthcoming, and information on sample plans of study and courses will be available in the 2017-2018 College Catalog.

The Major in Creative Writing

Program of Study

Students who graduate with the Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing will both be skilled in writing in a major literary genre and have a theoretically informed understanding of the aesthetic, historical, social, and political context of a range of contemporary writing. Students in the major will focus their studies on a primary genre chosen from: fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.

The organization of the major recognizes the value of workshop courses, but incorporates that model into a broader education that furthers students’ knowledge of historical and contemporary literary practice, introduces them to aesthetic and literary theory, sharpens their critical attention, and fosters their creative enthusiasm. Valuable experience with group work and peer criticism, which comes from the practices and skills central to Creative Writing pedagogy, will prepare students for success in a range of fields in the public and private sectors.

A minor in English and Creative Writing is also open to students outside those programs. Students who do not wish to pursue a formal program in Creative Writing will have access to our Arts Core courses, open entry ‘beginning’ workshops, and advanced workshops (the last by application).

Program Requirements

The Program in Creative Writing requires a total of 13 courses: 7 courses taken within Creative Writing, 4 literature courses, and 2 Research Background electives taken from other departments, as approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. In addition to this, students pursuing a major in Creative Writing will complete a BA thesis, due in spring quarter of the fourth year of study.

CRWR 17000-17999: Fundamentals in Creative Writing

The Fundamentals in Creative Writing course is a cross-genre, one-quarter seminar to be taken by all students in the major. Every section of the course focuses on a current debate relevant to all forms of literary practice, such as mimesis, translation and appropriation, and art and the market. This course introduces students to a group of core texts from each major literary genre. Fundamentals in Creative Writing is restricted to students who have declared the major, as its aims are to develop cohort solidarity, promote a culture of articulate exchange, and to induct students into a reflection on practice that will serve their artistic and professional development. The course is taught in a seminar format and will require a final paper. Students should plan to take the course as early as possible after declaring the major, ideally in the first or second quarter in the major program. Students apply for consent by filling out the CW Seminar Consent Form on creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Students must meet the course application deadline specified on the website.(Cap of 15)

CRWR 20200-20299 (fiction); CRWR 20300-20399 (poetry); CRWR 20400-20499 (nonfiction): Technical Seminars

Technical Seminars are offered in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and students in the major must take two seminars in their primary genre. The aims of the seminars are to enlarge students’ technical resources through extensive reading and analysis of contemporary literature, and to provide practice-based training in technical skills. Students submit papers that address technical questions, chiefly with reference to contemporary texts (not their own writing). For example, poetry students may write on “the line” where fiction students write on “point of view.” These courses are open to graduate and undergraduate students, and admission to each course requires consent in order to give priority to students in the major. These courses can count towards the minor as an elective. Students apply for consent by filling out the CW Seminar Consent Form on creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Students must meet the course application deadline specified on the website.(Cap of 12)

 CRWR 22100-22299 (fiction); CRWR 23100-23299 (poetry); CRWR 24001-24199 (nonfiction): Advanced Workshops

Students in the major enroll in three Advanced Workshops, at least two of which must be in the student’s primary genre. The Advanced Workshop is the characteristic pedagogical instrument of Creative Writing as an academic discipline. Workshop practice relies on an understanding of support that is dedicated to improving students’ writing, not unconditional approval. Critique is the core value and activity of the workshop, and students will practice it under the guidance of the workshop instructor. Although Advanced Workshops begin with attention to exemplary texts, they typically focus on original student work. Advanced Workshop courses will give priority to majors, minors, and MAPH students in the Creative Writing Option. Students apply for consent by filling out the CW Workshop Submission Form found on creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Students must meet the course application deadline specified on the website. (Cap of 10)

Credit for a Beginning Workshop

Students who have completed a Beginning Workshop in their primary genre and have received a grade of B+ or above will be able to count this course against one Advanced Workshop requirement. Please note that students must take at least two Advanced Workshops in their primary genre, meaning the Beginning Workshop will count as a third workshop in the primary or another genre. Beginning workshops offered by other institutions will not count towards the major. Beginning workshops are open to all students during pre-registration.

Literary Genre Courses

Students are required to take one Literary Genre course in their primary genre. Literary Genre courses introduce students to key texts and debates in the history of their chosen genre. This requirement can be met by a cross-listed English course or a comparable course in another literature. For example, the “Introduction to Fiction” and “Introduction to Poetry” gateway courses are acceptable here, as is “History of the Novel.” Specific courses that are identified as filling this requirement will be listed at creativewriting.uchicago.edu. (Cap set by department).

Literature Courses

Creative Writing majors are required to take three literature courses offered by other departments and programs. These courses can be focused on the literature of any language. A substantial proportion of one of these courses must involve the study of literature written before the twentieth century, and one must fulfill a theory requirement. The DUS will offer guidance and approve all qualifying courses. Specific courses that are identified as filling this requirement will be listed at creativewriting.uchicago.edu. (Cap set by department)

Research Background Electives

Students take two courses outside the Creative Writing department, selected in consultation with the DUS, to support the student’s individual interests and thesis project. For example, a student who needs background in a non-literary area of study might take coursework in Cinema and Media Studies, where as it may be appropriate for someone interested in projects that explore different media to take Visual Arts courses. Others may take additional literature coursework for this requirement. These courses must be approved by the DUS. (Cap set by department)

BA Thesis & Workshop

Students work on their BA project over three quarters. Early in Autumn Quarter of their fourth year, students will be assigned a graduate student preceptor, who will lead a series of mandatory colloquia over the course of the quarter. In Winter Quarter of fourth year, students will continue meeting with the graduate preceptor and must also enroll in one of the Thesis/Major Projects Workshops ( CRWR 29200 Thesis/Major Projects: Fiction/CRWR 29300 Thesis/Major Projects: Poetry/CRWR 29400 Thesis/Major Projects: Creative Nonfiction in their genre. Students are not automatically enrolled in a workshop; they must receive the consent of the workshop instructor, who will also serve as their faculty advisor for their BA Project.

These workshops are advanced courses limited to eight students and will include not only students majoring in Creative Writing but also those in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (ISHU) and the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) who are producing creative theses, as well as students completing a portfolio as part of the minor in English and Creative Writing. Students will work closely with their faculty advisor and with their peers in the workshops and will receive course credit as well as a final grade for the workshop. Students should be aware that because of the high number of students wishing to write fiction for their BA projects, students will not necessarily get their first choice of workshop instructor and faculty advisor.

In consultation with their faculty advisor and graduate preceptor, students will revise and resubmit a near-final draft of the BA Projects by the end of the second week of Spring Quarter. Students will submit the final version of their BA Project to their preceptor, faculty advisor, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies by the beginning of the fifth week of Spring Quarter.

Program Honors

The faculty in the Program in Creative Writing will award program honors based on their assessment of the BA theses, with input from graduate student preceptors. Students must hold a departmental GPA of 3.6 or above as well as an overall GPA of 3.25 or above to be eligible, and from there honors will be awarded only to the most exceptional projects from a given cohort. This means that the majority of students will not receive this designation.

Summary of Requirements for the Major Program

  • 1 Fundamentals in Creative Writing
  • 2 Technical Seminars (in a primary genre)
  • 3 Advanced Workshops (at least two in primary genre)
  • 3 Courses in Literature
  • 1 Literary Genre Course
  • 2 Research Background Electives
  • 1 BA Thesis Workshop

=13 total courses

Consent for CRWR Courses

All students can apply to Advanced Workshops or Thesis/Major Projects Workshops online via creativewriting.uchicago.edu through the Workshop Submission Form. A writing sample in the genre of the relevant course is required. Students in the major can request consent for Technical Seminars or Fundamentals in Creative Writing via creative.uchicago.edu through the CW Seminar Consent Form. Students must submit all forms before the quarterly deadline specified on the Creative Writing website.

Students who have not formally declared the major will not receive priority in consent-based courses. Students are encouraged to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to declare the major and chart a plan of study before the end of Autumn Quarter of the third year of study. The student formalizes the declaration process on my.uchicago.edu.

Admission to the Major

Any student who wishes to complete the major must file a major program worksheet with the Program Coordinator or the DUS by the end of Autumn Quarter during the third year of study. Students considering the major should meet with the DUS or Program Coordinator as early as possible to discuss program requirements and individual plans of study.

Double Majors

When students choose a double major in Creative Writing and English, the three Literature Courses and the Literary Genre course will count towards both majors. The two Research Background Electives, however, should be taken outside of the English department.

This means that a maximum of four English courses, including the Literary Genre course, can count towards the Creative Writing major. For other majors, a maximum of three courses can count towards both majors (pending approval from both departments).

Courses Outside the Department Taken for Program Credit

A maximum of three courses outside Creative Writing and the Department of English (or another literature) may count toward the total number of courses required by the major. Ordinarily, two of these courses will be Research Background Electives. Substitutions for a further course will be subject to approval, but students may not substitute non-literature courses for the Literature Course requirement.

Grading

Students with a major in Creative Writing must receive quality grades (not P/F) in all 13 courses taken to meet the requirements of the program. Non-majors may take CRWR courses for P/F grading with consent of instructor.

Advising

The Program Coordinator and Director of Undergraduate Studies will provide guidance to students choosing courses to complete the major requirements. By Autumn Quarter of their third year, all students will be required to file a major program worksheet with the department, and the student’s final major program must be approved by the DUS.

Graduate student preceptor support will be available to students while they write BA theses and minor portfolios during their final year of study, and faculty instructors will serve as thesis advisors for the students in their winter workshops.

Creative Writing Arts Core Courses

Students contemplating a major in Creative Writing may choose to take one or two Arts Core courses in Creative Writing. These courses will not count towards major requirements, but they do offer an opportunity to test out the program while satisfying a general education requirement. Creative Writing Arts Core courses can count towards the minor as long as they are not counted towards the Arts requirement of Core.