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The MFA Program in Creative Writing is a two-year Studio/Research program combining writing with studies in craft and literature. Seeking a balance between literary artistic practice and literary scholarship, the course of study emphasizes the importance of reading to one's development as a writer. In addition to writing workshops, the faculty offers courses in form, craft, theory, and thesis direction.
In the MFA program, we recognize that the pursuit of excellence in the arts must be understood in diverse, patient, and supple ways. Some of our graduates (like many writers) will not pursue further advanced degrees or traditional academic careers, or even careers obviously linked to the creative arts. And the realities of the literary publishing world entail long apprenticeships before the first book might be expected. Therefore when the MFA discusses outcomes for our students, we keep in mind that each of our students will choose different career and artistic paths. The development and the application of outcome measures must be thoughtful and individualized for each graduate. In general, students who graduate with the MFA degree will:
To complete the course of study for the MFA degree in Creative Writing, a minimum of 48 quarter/term hours are required in the following categories:
24 hours/credits in Creative Writing Workshops (6 workshop courses in your genre)
24 hours/credits in Literature and/or Rhetoric and Composition (6 courses)
12 hours/credits in Thesis and/or Writing and Conference
GTAs are required to take two practicum courses: WR 517 and WR 521/WR 522/WR 523 (in order to be eligible to teach creative writing in your second year)
TAs and students planning to apply for a TA are required to take one course focusing on theory of composition (pedagogy).
No additional hours in disciplines other than Creative Writing, Rhetoric and Composition, Literature, and/or Film will normally apply toward the degree.
See the graduate course descriptions for a list of courses that meet each requirement.
The workshop is an opportunity to receive responses to one's own work and to respond to others – a sustained practicum in criticism, designed to challenge and stretch aesthetic assumptions. Participants describe, explore, and evaluate the premises of works in progress, with an eye toward editorial improvement. Generally, faculty members serve not only as active participants, but also as discussion moderators, focusing or redirecting the conversation as needed. They also work to maintain a balanced agenda that includes: what is most helpful to the piece under discussion, what is most productive for future work by the author, and what is most instructive to the group as a whole? At Oregon State, we strive for workshops that are supportive but rigorous, analytical but not judgmental, noncompetitive, vigilant always against workshop jargon or preferred aesthetics. As in all other areas of the MFA Program – in literature classes, working with a thesis advisor – the workshop gives writers the chance to enlarge their capacity for strong work.
Students produce a thesis at the end of their second year of study. The thesis is a sustained piece of imaginative writing of literary merit. Generally, length, form, and content are to be mutually agreed upon by the student and the thesis advisor, with final approval resting with the advisor. Typically, a thesis is between 70 and 120 pages in length for fiction and nonfiction, and may be a short-story or essay collection, a novel, or a sustained nonfiction work. Poetry theses are between 35 and 48 pages in length.
An oral examination will be given in the student's final term of study. It will measure a writer's growth and involve questions on theory and technique, on the history of the genre, on the student's own creative work, and on the student's grasp of the contemporary situation in the field of Creative Writing. The examination committee will consist of the student's thesis advisor, a second representative from Creative Writing, a representative from Literature or Rhetoric and Writing (or, in some cases, from another field of study in which a student has a particular interest), and a Graduate School representative.
Graduate Teaching Assistantship
Each year the School of Writing, Literature, and Film offers a GTA (graduate teaching assistantship) to accepted MFA students. If you are interested in applying for an assistantship, just check the box on your graduate application under Additional Graduate Questions and discuss your teaching aims in your letter or statement of objectives. Also, ask those who are writing recommendations for you to speak particularly about your aptitude for and experience with teaching.
In addition to GTA positions in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, other opportunities for support and for relevant disciplinary experience are available.
Graduate Research Assistants are placed in public relations positions on campus, writing and editing stories, managing social media and website content, and developing promotional materials.
OSU’s Writing Center also offers a GTA position. The Writing Center GTA supports staff in the training and supervision of the writing assistants who work at the Writing Center. Central responsibilities include training and scheduling writing assistants; conducting weekly staff meetings, developing and revising online and print resources for the Writing Center, maintaining records, and compiling ad hoc, quarterly, and annual statistics and reports. The Writing Center GTA also assists in the day-to-day operations of Writing Desk at the Valley Library and with the Writing Center's online writing lab. For additional information email Director of the Writing Center, Dennis Bennett.