MFA Courses, Descriptions, Requirements

2014-2015 Program Requirements for Master of Fine Arts

Master of Fine Arts in Creating Writing

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Western uses a low-residency format that requires students to engage in studies in two ways:

1) on-campus intensive seminars and workshops for two weeks during three consecutive summers, and
2) a plan of non-residency study requiring four academic semesters, during each of which students work both with peers and one-to-one with writing faculty mentors.  The M.F.A. offers students three concentrations: 
        • Popular Genre Fiction/Nonfiction
        • Poetry with a Focus on Versecraft, and
        • Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television.

The M.F.A program insists on a high degree of commitment and excellence from candidates, all of whom must maintain a 3.000 course average to complete the program. A minimum grade of B- in each course applied to a degree program is required. Summer residency courses within concentrations are front-loaded – that is, these courses require students to prepare for the intensive residency experience by completing pre-assigned reading lists as well as preparing advanced assignments to maximize the time for discussion and qualitative analysis during the course of studies on campus.

In the first and second summer residencies, candidates will also complete one credit each summer of CRWR 600 learning or updating online tools mastery, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with non-residency mentors. Third-summer candidates will earn one credit attending and participating in critiques and readings for cohorts attending their first and second summers. They also attend and participate in a summer creative writing conference hosted on campus during each residency.

The non-residency mentoring component of each M.F.A. concentration pairs students one-to-one with writing faculty mentors. Students can expect to spend a minimum of 25-30 hours per week to complete writing assignments, for which mentors will provide weekly feedback using online tools. Students will also participate weekly in threaded synchronous and asynchronous online voice and discussion boards during each term with other students and mentors. Students will earn 12 credits each semester for this work (six credits for each mentored course topic).

Faculty

Professor David Rothman;
Associate Professor Jack Lucido;
Visiting Faculty Russell Davis, JS Mayank, Stacia Deutsch, Diana Francis, Ernest Hilbert, Michaela Roessner-Herman, Bob Shayne, and David Yezzi, Candace Nadon.

Description of the Program

Popular Genre Fiction/Nonfiction

The concentration in Popular Genre Fiction/Nonfiction includes instruction in writing for such forms as science fiction/fantasy, the mystery, romance, narrative nonfiction, and other forms of mainstream commercial fiction.  Study includes short and long written forms, as well as exploration of forms for alternative media such as public performance, audio, and internet media.

Students may also elect to study two of these concentrations by increasing the duration of their program to six semesters and a fourth summer residency.

The Popular Genre Fiction/Nonfiction Concentration requires the following 60 credits:

 

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation

 3 credits

CRWR 601  Patterns and Paradigms for Popular Genres

 2 credits

CRWR 602  Fiction Workshop and Translation

 2 credits

CRWR 604  Pre- and Post-Publication Promotion

 2 credits

CRWR 608  Craft and Practice I

 6 credits

CRWR 609  Genres I – Speculative Fiction, Mystery, and YA

 6 credits

CRWR 612  Narrative Nonfiction

 6 credits

CRWR 618  Genres II – Women’s Fiction, Romance, and The Western

 6 credits

CRWR 619  Craft and Practice II

 6 credits

During second fall term, choose one of the following two:

 

*CRWR 646   Narrative Poetry

 6 credits

*CRWR 665   The Narrative in Picture Form

 6 credits

CRWR 621  Making Connections in the Market

 6 credits

CRWR 622  Thesis Preparation

 6 credits

CRWR 694  Capstone

 3 credits


Popular Genre Fiction/Nonfiction as a Second Area of Emphasis

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn
30 credits within the concentration as follows:

 

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation

 1 credit

CRWR 608  Craft and Practice I 

 6 credits

CRWR 609  Genres I – Speculative Fiction, Mystery, and YA

 6 credits

CRWR 694  Capstone

 3 credits

Supporting courses in consultation with advisor

12 credits

One of the following:

 

CRWR 601  Patterns and Paradigms for Mainstream Genre Fiction

 2 credits

CRWR 602  Fiction Workshop and Translation

 2 credits

CRWR 604  Pre- and Post-Publication Promotion

 2 credits

Poetry with a Focus on Versecraft

The concentration in Poetry with a Focus on Versecraft requires that students achieve demonstrable mastery of a wide range of poetic forms and techniques along with acquiring historical and analytical knowledge about them.  Students who complete the program will also be required to demonstrate their readiness to participate fully in the literary world through public speaking and relevant prose (book reviews, metrical analysis, historical investigation, etc.). This concentration requires passing a comprehensive exam on versecraft and poetics as well as sufficient reading competency in a foreign language, aided by a dictionary, to translate foreign-language poetry into English.

The Poetry with a Focus in Versecraft Concentration requires the following 60 credits:

 

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation

 3 credits

CRWR 631  Scansion Immersion

 2 credits

CRWR 632  Public Performance

 2 credits

CRWR 633  Poetry and Music

 2 credits

CRWR 636  Metrical Traditions and Versification I

 6 credits

CRWR 638  History of English Language/Studies in Translation

 6 credits

CRWR 641  Metrical Traditions and Versification II

 6 credits

CRWR 643  Historical Foundations of English Prosody

 6 credits

During second fall term, choose one of the following two: 

 

*CRWR 646  Verse Narrative

 6 credits

*CRWR 647  Verse Satire/Verse Drama

 6 credits

During second fall term, choose one of the following two:

 

*CRWR 608  Craft and Practice I

 6 credits

*CRWR 665  Screenwriting Genre

 6 credits

CRWR 651  Advanced Studies in Forms and Genres

 6 credits

CRWR 653  Poetry Book Reviewing/Poetry, Literacy, Pedagogy 

 6 credits

CRWR 694  Capstone

 3 credits

 Poetry as a Second Area of Emphasis

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn
30 credits within the concentration as follows:

 

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation

 1 credit

CRWR 636  Metrical Traditions and Versification I

 6 credits

CRWR 646  Narrative Poetry,  or CRWR 647 Dramatic Poetry/Verse Satire

 6 credits

CRWR 694  Capstone

 3 credits

Supporting courses in consultation with advisor

12 credits

One of the following:

 

CRWR 631  Scansion Immersion

 2 credits

CRWR 632  Public Performance

 2 credits

CRWR 633  Poetry and Music

 2 credits

Students may count CRWR 646 if taken already to fulfill the out-of-concentration
course required by the primary area of emphasis.

 

Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television

The concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television includes instruction in the history and analysis of classical and contemporary screenwriting texts and the resulting films.  The program further includes instruction in writing the visual narrative, three- and four-act structure, character development, thematic development, conflict, genre, story arc, and dialog.  The program emphasizes not only the feature-length screenplay but also television writing as well as screenwriting contests, festivals, and opportunities for marketing the M.F.A. students’ work. A Master’s Thesis Project in the form of a 100-page feature-length screenplay must be completed as a part of the degree requirements.

The Screenwriting Concentration requires the following 60 credits:

 

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation

 3 credits

CRWR 661  Film History and Analysis; the Visual Narrative

 2 credits

CRWR 662  Story, Conflict, Character, and Genre in Screenwriting

 2 credits

CRWR 663  Screenwriting Competition, Representation, the “Option”

 2 credits

CRWR 665  Screenwriting Genre

 6 credits

CRWR 668  Television Drama and Situation Comedy

 6 credits

CRWR 675 Writing the TV Pilot

 6 credits

CRWR 678  Adaptation

 6 credits

CRWR 671  Writing the First Feature-Length Screenplay

 6 credits

In the second fall term, choose one of the following two:

 

* CRWR 608 Craft and Practice I

 6 credits

* CRWR 646  Narrative Poetry

 6 credits

CRWR 690  Screenwriting Master’s Capstone Project I

 6 credits

CRWR 691  Screenwriting Master’s Capstone Project II

 6 credits

CRWR 694  Capstone

 3 credits


Screenwriting as a Second Area of Emphasis

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn 30
credits within the concentration as follows:

 

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation

 1 credit

CRWR 665  Screenwriting Genre

 6 credits

CRWR 668  Television Drama and Situation Comedy

 6 credits

CRWR 694  Capstone

 3 credits

Supporting courses in consultation with advisor

12 credits

One of the following:

 

CRWR 661  Film History and Analysis; the Visual Narrative

 2 credits

CRWR 662  Story, Conflict, Character, and Genre in Screenwriting

 2 credits

CRWR 663  Screenwriting Competition, Representation, the “Option”

 2 credits

Students may count CRWR 665 if taken already to fulfill the out-of-concentration 
course required by the primary area of emphasis

 

Courses

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation  1 credit
Focus on learning mastery of online tools, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with non-residency mentors during first summer; focus on attending presentations and participating in workshop sessions during second summer; and focus on presenting student thesis as well as attending and participating in other readings during third summer. Must be repeated three times for credit. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 601  Patterns and Paradigms for Mainstream Genre Writing  2 credits
Focus on student exploration of texts that set patterns for various forms of genre writing, and use those patterns as the basis for their own writing.   Reading includes contemporary texts, folktales and myths that establish the archetypal basis for narrative patterns in plot, setting and character development.  Also lays the groundwork for students to articulate and work efficiently within their own writing process, and for students to establish effective writing practices for long-term use. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 602  Fiction Workshop and Translation  2 credits
Focus on workshopping student’s writing projects, with a focus on developing material for the thesis.  Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 604  Pre- and Post-Publication Promotion  2 credits
Focus on the practical aspects of dealing with current market demands for writers, with a focus on self-promotion both before and after publication.  Work includes public reading of theses, pitches, and interviews; discussion and practice in using the internet and social networking media for promoting writing; and an exploration of opportunities available from writers grants and fellowships. Session also includes a ‘mentoring’ component, where graduating students hold mentoring sessions with new students.  Prerequisite: Admission to the program. 

CRWR 608 Craft and Practice I  6 credits
Focus on skill-building in fundamental areas of narrative fiction.  Students develop skills of observation and reflection in order to access material for their writing; strengthen research skills for their areas of interest; articulate their writing process and explore ways to make it more efficient and effective; practice craft-building exercises in a variety of areas.  Participants encouraged to use class material as the basis for their future thesis work. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 609  Genres I - Speculative Fiction, Mystery, and YA  6 credits
Focus on providing students with experience writing in the speculative fiction genres, exploring the traditions and current trends in the market. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 612  Narrative Nonfiction 6 credits
Focus on introducing students to both long and short form of writing in narrative nonfiction, with writing practice in a variety of sub-categories.  Students also build skills in utilizing nonfiction as it applies to their interest in fiction writing. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 618  Genres II - Women’s Fiction, Romance, and The Western 6 credits
Focus on providing students with experience writing in the forms of the mystery, women’s fiction, romance and the Western, exploring traditions and current trends in the market. Prerequisite: Admission to the Program.

CRWR 619  Craft and Practice II  6 credits
A continuation and refinement of the narrative skill-building begun in CRWR 608, Craft and A continuation and refinement of the narrative skill-building begun in CRWR 606, Craft and Practice I.  Students will be given exercises aimed at developing their thesis concepts into full-length works, examining the following: the structure of plot and subplot in their individual works, how to connect minor character motives to major character arcs, and inclusion of narrative elements and patterns to flesh out their current and future work. This will include practices designed to support the continuation of a literary life beyond the classroom environment, such as expansion of their ‘ideas’ file, moves to overcome potential blocks, finding your public stance as a writer, and more.  Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 621  Making Connections in the Market  6 credits 
Focus on a guided exploration of taking work into the world of making connections with editors, agents, and other writers through attending writing conventions, joining on-line groups, and more, preparing students to make the most of these channels for publication. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 622 Thesis Preparation  6 credits
Focus on guiding students through the process of preparing and completing a working draft of the capstone thesis in a genre of the student’s choice. Completed working draft to be submitted to the assigned thesis advisor no later than the course’s end. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 631  Scansion Immersion  2 credits 
Focus on an intensive review of prosody – how to make meter and rhythm work in the poetic line as well as how to discern that structure in the works of others. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 632  Public Performance  2 credits
Focus on the quintessence of public speaking, particularly as it applies to the performance of poetry, delivery of lectures, and participation in panels, understanding of the craft of using their voices and their physical presence to deliver creative, critical and pedagogical work orally to the public, and how to participate in conversations with the greatest possible skill and grace. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 633  Poetry and Music  2 credits 
Focus on exploring some of the complex relations between these two arts, from theoretical discussion to the practical aspects of writing everything from song lyrics to choral odes to opera libretti. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 636  Metrical Traditions  & Versification I  6 credits
Focus on tracing the development of the metrical tradition in English poetry from the beginning to the present.  Students read poems in all the major forms (Anglo-Saxon Strong Stress Meter, the ballad, classical imitations, blank verse, the sonnet, iambic tetrameter, etc.) along with historical and theoretical commentary.  Students also model such forms and scan their own work and that of others. Students will also trace the development of theories of versification and prosody in English.  Students read a wide range of works, many of them by poets, in which they describe their craft and that of others, and they compare theories of and approaches to metrical poetry.  In this course students are expected to produce a wide range of short essays on various traditions of versification, along with at least one substantial research paper. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 638  History of the English Language/Poetry Translation  6 credits
Focus on a two-pronged study, first of the historical development and evolution of English, and second, work to understand translating poetry, studying and comparing translations, reading theories of translation and attempting translations. Prerequisites: Proof of second-year, or its equivalent, of reading competency in a foreign language, and admission to the program.

CRWR 641 Metrical Traditions & Versification II  6 credits
Focus on emphasizing advanced topics in metrical composition, e.g. stanza forms, longer forms and sequences, narrative forms, nonce forms (including free verse forms).  Students not only practice the forms, but read and scan them along with delving into the history, criticism and theory. The course also selects several major traditions in verse theory and explores them in depth, e.g., linguistic theories of verse; structuralist theories; relations between verse and music; attempt to imitate classical forms in modern languages; etc. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 643  Historical Foundations of English Prosody  6 credits
Focus on an exploration of the theory and practice of rhythm and rhyme, including all variations, their sources and their traditions in consideration of aesthetic, linguistic, and anthropological theories. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 646  Narrative Poetry  6 credits
Focus on examination, analysis, study, and writing in the narrative genres and modes of poetry, from the ballad to the epic and novel in verse. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 647  Dramatic Poetry and  Satiric Verse 6 credits
Focus on examination, analysis, discussion, and writing in all the modes of comic verse, including all the modes of satire (Menippean, Horatian, parodic), to verse-based comic approaches such as light verse, doggerel, children’s verse, and more. Additionally, an exploration of dramatic techniques of verse from ancient Greece through the Renaissance, and to modern writers such as T. S. Eliot and up to the present. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 651  Advanced Studies in Forms and Genres  6 credits

Focus on a study of significant forms, group of forms, or poetic genres, based on student and faculty mentor interest, with students reading a wide range of examples along with criticism and theory, and also composing their own work in these forms and genres. Topics include the following: The Sonnet and Sonnet Sequences, French and Italian Forms (ballade, villanelle, sestina, rondeau, terza rima, etc.), Classical Forms (Latin and Greek), The Ode, Blank Verse, Elegy and Pastoral , Non-European Forms (haiku, ghazal, tanka, Welsh forms, etc.), Free Verse Forms (Whitmanian versicles, syllabics, loose iambics, nonce forms, etc.). Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 653  Poetry Book Reviewing/Poetry, Literacy, Pedagogy  6 credits
Focus on close analysis of the best reviews and criticism of the past and present, and practice writing such pieces themselves. Also a wide range of techniques and materials available to teachers of poetry to communicate much of that history.  Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 661  Film History and Analysis; the Visual Narrative  2 credits
Focus on examination, analysis, and discussion of classic and contemporary films from a screenwriting, story, and character development perspective as well as analysis of theme and motif.  Students engage in writing activities and exercises to develop a visual narrative style.  All such writing goes towards creating material to fuel the mentoring process in upcoming semesters.  The main theme here is: when possible show the story element; don’t have a character say it.  Finally the prevailing three- and four-act screenplay structures will be explored. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 662  Story, Conflict, Character, and Genre in Screenwriting  2 credits
Focus on workshopping of short screenplays and projects along with exploration of story arc, elements of conflict, character development and arc, with an emphasis on film genre choices and styles. Includes proposals for upcoming mentoring semesters feature-length screenplays, plus an opportunity to practice pitches. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 663 Screenwriting Competition, Representation, the “Option”  2 credits
Focus on mock or actual “pitch” sessions of the thesis screenplay.  Screenwriting contests researched and entered.  Writers Guild guidelines and application explored.  Agents, options to produce, and independent film potential also explored. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 665 Screenwriting Genre 6 credits

Focus on challenging students to write filmic stories in three distinct genre categories, forcing a growth and flexibility to create meaning across a spectrum of setting, time, and circumstance.  Dialog is permitted but is de-emphasized in favor of a more visual narrative. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 668 Television Drama and Situation Comedy 6 credits 

Focus on a thorough proposal for both the drama and sitcom, researched and written. The result will be a complete “pitch” portfolio including a “spec” episode teleplay completed for (both or either) a television drama (and/or) a situation comedy. Prerequisite: Admission to the program. 

CRWR 671 Writing the First Feature-Length Screenplay 6 credits  
Focus on a thorough review of the existing works in the style and genre of the proposed piece, and a thorough treatment is written.  Students generate character biographies and a complete story outline.  The production is “pitched” to fellow students along with the mentor.  A first draft is written and critiqued. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 675 Writing the TV Pilot  6 credits 
Focus on choosing and writing an original TV pilot for either a 1-hour drama series, or a half-hour sitcom. In addition to the pilot script, this course requires the students to pitch the idea, come up with marketing materials – i.e. treatment for the series, outline of the pilot, a series “bible,” and loglines for at least 4-5 future episodes. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 678 Adaptation  6 credits 
Focus on taking preexisting source material (books, newspaper articles, videogames, graphic novels etc.) and learning how to begin adapting such into a screenplay. Students will examine various forms of adaptation, write a research paper, and write the first act of their own feature adaptation piece. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 684 Teaching Assistantship and Pedagogy 1-3 credits
Focus on an opportunity to teach under a mentor-teacher in the classroom, including a guided discussion on pedagogy theory and practice with weekly questions on points of interest, suggested readings, and the opportunity for teaching writers to discuss challenges and insights from their own teaching practice. May be repeated for up to 6 credits. Prerequisite: Admission to the Program.

CRWR 690 Screenwriting Master’s Capstone Project I  6 credits 
Focus on a feature-length screenplay, intended for Hollywood or independent production, proposed including a thorough review of the existing works, treatment, character biographies, and generation of a complete story outline. A first draft of approximately 120 pages written and critiqued. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 691  Screenwriting Master’s Capstone Project II  6 credits
Focus on completion of the screenplay. Several drafts written and developed with the mentor.  Following industry preferences, the screenplay should target approximately 100 pages. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 692  Independent Study  1-6 credits  
Focus on working with a faculty mentor to research, develop, and structure a student’s particular areas of interest into a written work. May be repeated for up to 12 credits. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 694  Capstone  3 credits
Focus on working with a faculty mentor and responding to mentor readings and workshop suggestions in order to complete one long work suitable for thesis binding. For the Genres concentration, this shall be the final preparation of a work of fiction or narrative nonfiction suitable for seeking publication; or for the Poetry concentration, this shall be the final preparation to submit 35 pages of original poetry and a prose portfolio including at least one review of a poetry book and one historical essay, or else one review and one work of translation, totaling 10-15 pages, and an analytical project, for a total of 60 – 80 pages; or for the screenwriting concentration, this shall be the final preparation of a feature-length screenplay (the defined Master's Thesis Project) revised and polished, and readied for a public reading of an excerpt performed or else a self-produced sequence from, or trailer for, the screenplay. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.

CRWR 697  Special Topics  6 credits  
Focus on studies of a particular topic of interest to students in the MFA program to be announced each time the course is offered. Prerequisite: Admission to the program.