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MFA Curriculum Overview

Western New England University’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing offers in-depth study of how fiction is made without the time commitment of a traditional, full-time graduate program. A heightened concentration on craft provides students with exposure to every aspect of writing, including sentence craft, voice development, honing dialogue, shaping beginnings, middles and endings, and makes this program unique. This two-year program is broken down into four components, each comprised of an intense 7-day residency, followed by individualized, mentored study designed to deepen students understanding of craft through canonic literature read from a creator’s perspective.  

Each residency is followed by an extended period of tutorial work with a faculty mentor focused on the student’s written work, readings and critical thinking as negotiated in an individualized plan of study. As part of the requirements for the degree, students complete many drafts and revisions, producing a substantial manuscript of original work in fiction. Students also read and comment on works that have shaped the genre, complete a critical essay, and assemble an annotated bibliography that presents and discusses the writers most influential to their own work.

Curriculum

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a dynamic two-year program that consists of four residencies and an individualized curriculum totaling 48 credits.  Each year of the program is split into two parts, each consisting of two sequenced graduate terms beginning with a 7-day residency. Residencies will take place in the summer and winter.  The chart below provides an overview of the program structure.

Year 1

Part 1                                                 Part 2                                              Total Credits

• Summer Residency                            • Winter Residency

• Summer and Fall Terms                      • Winter and Spring Terms

(Tutorial Period)                                      (Tutorial Period)

• 6 credits/Term                                    • 6 credits/Term                                 24 credits

(Individualized curriculum)                     (Individualized curriculum)

Year 2

• Summer Residency                            • Winter Residency

• Summer and Fall Terms                      • Winter and Spring Terms

(Tutorial Period)                                      (Tutorial Period)

• 6 credits/Term                                    • 6 credits/Term                                 24 credits

(Individualized curriculum)                     (Individualized curriculum)

Our low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program begins with a 7-day residency. Faculty will deliver formal talks on elements of craft, as well as seminars on Special Topics such as literary theory, development of the novel, and close readings of literary work. Students participate in faculty-guided workshops, discussion sessions, group and individual meetings. They attend readings and lectures by guest faculty and visiting writers, as well as panels and talks by editors, agents, and publishers. Assigned readings focus on principles of craft and techniques in fiction, providing the opportunity for analysis of a work from a writer’s point of view and a broader understanding of literary traditions.

The first residency is followed by an extended tutorial period during which students submit both original creative writing work as well as annotations on assigned readings to their mentors. The nature and direction of the reading and writing projects of the tutorial period are planned and agreed upon during the residency through individual conferences with the faculty mentor, and are tailored to the specific needs of the student. At the conclusion of each term, students will receive a pass/fail grade accompanied by a narrative evaluation from the faculty mentor.

The second component builds on the student’s accomplishments in the previous one.  Residencies continue to offer the intensity of seven days of lectures, workshops, discussions, seminars, readings, and panels.  The period that follows will provide the quiet needed for work, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.  During the third residency, in addition to the regular schedule of craft class, workshop, seminars and readings, students attend a seminar on the critical essay in preparation for the writing of the extended critical essay on a topic agreed upon with the faculty mentor.  During the tutorial period, students submit drafts and revisions according to a schedule negotiated with their mentors. The completed critical paper is due at the end of the third tutorial period.

The fourth residency places emphasis on the completion of the student thesis. Fourth term students submit their thesis to their mentor/thesis director and a second faculty reader.